Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Studebaker John's Old School Rockin'

Studebaker John Grimaldi continues his pursuit of blues and roots rock with a new release, “Old School Rockin’” on Delmark. Backed simply by his long-time bassist Bob Halaj as well as drummer Albert ‘Joey’’ DeMarco, he lays down 14 new blues and boogie based songs that certainly will get the feet moving and the fingers poppin’. As I noted in a review of his 2006 recording “Self Made Man,” “[H]e has been adept in a traditionally oriented approach to the blues (reflecting especially the driving approaches of Hutto and Hound Dog Taylor), but not afraid to mix in a bit of rock and roll and bring his own voice. He has toured and recorded behind a number of blues legends as well as developed his own music.”

The current release is his second for Delmark, and is more in the vein of hard blues-infused rock and roll. The music is hardly fancy. It is driving, in your face, rockers that bring his sizzling guitar work along with his gravelly vocals to the front with Halaj and DeMarco keeping the music propelled. From the driving Rockin’ the Boogie that opens this set, John and band push the performance like Jim Brown about to break loose through the defensive line for a lengthy touchdown run. Singing about getting his mojo working against the irresistible groove sets the mood. Disease Called The Love has a melodic hook and a terrific lyric about breaking out in a cold sweat and what one has the doctor don’t know.

Fire Down Below is a hard rocker that to these ears evokes the sound of classic Rolling Stones without slavishly trying to imitate the Stones. Its more that Studebaker John and his rhythm conjure up some of the same spirit as Mick and Keith did decades ago. This flavor is also evident on Fine Little Machine, as he sings about all you need is a driver for your little machine and John will drive you better than anyone you have seen. The title song has a driving shuffle groove going as he talks about a few years back couldn’t turn on the radio but now that voodoo groove has a hold him and how we need some rockin’, old school rockin’ tonight while he lays down his guitar rhythm with a slightly distorted, fuzzy tone. It nice stuff and certainly he is right about his old school rockin’ driving one’s blues away.

Deal With the Devil includes some harmonica coloring over the droning slide guitar backing. Its followed by an insistent performance, I Stand Alone. Mesmerized, with a latin tinged groove and a lighter musical feel, has a nice guitar solo mixing slide with some Santana influenced guitar lines. Dark Night has harmonica overdubbed as well as guitar and displays how strongly he can set a mood. The closing Tumblin’ Down The Road puts his harmonica up front and adds to the musical variety here on a solid blues number.

Old School Rockin’ is gritty and blues infused and performed with the same conviction and honesty that have marked Studebaker John’s more traditionally rooted recordings. Whatever label one applies to Studebaker John’s performances here is irrelevant to the fact there is marvelous music here.

I received my review copy from Delmark Records. Here is a video of him performing.

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