09 December 2014


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 GravelRoad have grown up and moved out. They've walked on down the juke joint hall into the Mississippi gloaming, through the pines through the pines, to the center of a crop circle on the edge of a south central Washington state scrub land. They climb down a steep canyon, lit by a dusted August moon as it glides down a wide, quiet southern river. Rays of black and white moonlight glance off of the river water and on to the golden eyes...of El Scuerpo.

   While Seattle's GravelRoad always hailed spiritually from a sometimes mythical, sometimes hyper-real north Mississippi, on El Scuerpo the vibe is Spokane and Tacoma, by way of Holly Springs, Greenville, or Chulahoma. That's a good thing. It's how they started out.

   Dirty, pan-regional, they've always been brave about experimentation, and stretching their blues, and El Scuerpo is no great departure from that vision. From slow, folky, smoky grooves, to sumo-weight blasts of post-blues, to a tightened up T-Modelesque go-round, GR's boogie is unimpeachably tight, regardless of musical topography, regardless of any influencing ghosts. They're really at the top of their blues game, and it shows on El Scuerpo.

   Now in their tenth year, with the 2014 release of El Scuerpo it all comes together and they nail what they'd set out to do back in '04: Play with North Mississippi song forms and see where they lead. But this album finds them sonically where they belong. The recording is (as are the performances) outstanding. GravelRoad has always been much more than backup band for late Boss Of The Blues T-Model Ford, and if there was any doubt El Scuerpo confirms that.

   On this their fifth album (not including two albums with T-Model,) GravelRoad step out even further from what could have been a blues yoke for some bands, and into a deeper blues, an amalgam if you will of their metal, hill country blues, punk and funk roots. They, as T-Model Ford would have said, put a stamp on it.

      Walking point on the mixing board for El Scuerpo is Seattle legend of sound Jack Endino , a pairing that makes "like duh" perfect sense to me. Endino you'll recall mixed Mudhoney, Soundgarden, Tad, Nirvana, and Murder City Devils, among others. El Scuerpo was then mastered by Seattle's Rick Fisher (Steve Miller, Sammy Davis Jr.)  El Scuerpo displays the sonic care that went into producing this disc, by simply, sonically, sounding like a classic hard rock record. But it's more than that. There's elements of Zep-ness, psych-ness, CCR-ness, Afghan Whigsishness, and plenty of Seattleness, but all while sounding like the city-slickered sons of T-Model Ford that they are.

   With Endino handling the mixing, El Scuerpo shows GravelRoad's heaviness refined, without them losing an ounce of dirt. Their North Mississippi Hill Country mantle is burnished like trees along a cattle trail, and all of it is finally given the sweaty sonic cojones and sweetmeats they've deserved for years. GravelRoad have never made a better sounding record than El Scuerpo, and they've never played better than they do now. They started as dudes trying to rock the North Mississippi blues, and have become men rocking the south Seattle blues. If there is any band that you could still shake a stick at for representing that Seattle sound it'd be these guys.

   El Scuerpo brings to mind elements of Junior Kimbrough, early Joe Walsh, T-Model and RL Burnside, some Cave, a rainy downtown Seattle street an hour after the bars close, some Lanegan, Dulli, Wolf and Priest, Saturday night sunset at Grandfather Cuts Loose The Ponies wild horse monument, Johnny Cash and Freddie King, Melvins, Skynyrd, SUNN))), leaving the the winds at dawn on the beach at La Push, slipping in your favorite mix tape, cutting through the forest, and going down south. One track you hear Trower, the next Kimbrough, maybe a little Beefheart, some Neil, T-Model of course, but all of it run down that GravelRoad. What else could you want? This'll be  a great album to get you through the winter, in stony fireside listens.

   GravelRoad has made an album both powerful, and forward moving, but also fun. There'll be times listening to El Scuerpo you might find yourself muttering under your breath...fuckyeahdudes...as you bob your head to the blues rock action. It's a new old school. It's blues heavy, funky, classic rock and slankyass party music. It's smart, hot and seriously terrific.

Here's a track by track run down of El Scuerpo::

1. Waiting For Nothing ::

The jam to start your day, and end your night.
I'm 13 and riding in my brothers
Corvair, on rain-slick roads, through the deep woods
outside of Crater Lake, listening to
The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get.

2. Wolf On Down The Way ::

A modern wolf baby or maybe a
'yote, runs the pines at night, from Cascade
to Fort Wayne, and Tullahoma, to West
Memphis, howling for souls, digging for bone.

3. 40 Miles ::
Evil audio homage to New York-Mississippi wish-fuls Twenty Miles? Respect!

4. Lord Have Mercy ::
Oh. My God. this.
This exceptional cover of Junior Kimbrough's Lord Have Mercy. Vocals are by Lisa Kekaula of the mighty, mighty, Bellrays. Fat, soulful drums of war, fat, blue, brown, tough and soulful North Mississippi chords, meet Sunday morning vocals, pleading for relief. Y'all been there.
Lord have mercy, indeed.

5. Green Grass ::
Heavy/poppy/weird...and rocking.
T-Model rocking on a train, with a '70s english Stoner Witch.

6:: DD Amin ::
I ... wait... what? ...wtf? I'm sorry, but GravelRoad just threw a thousand Melvinized-gigatons of geo-political Sabbath at me. I had to go incognito to search for the words: slide-guitar driven, Explosif Plastique. 

7. Asteroid ::
Here's where they start really hanging out with EndinoEarth hugs its grandsons, dogs bath the heads of cats with their tongues.

An El Camino rolls out after midnight, past Spangle, past Spokane, Past Stateline...Lights....OFF. The dam just ahead...

8. Flesh And Bones::
What else can I say but better than any cannibal song that Danny Elfman or some other smart-ass, could ever have imagined.

El Scuerpo is a hell of an album, folks. 
And that's for damn sure.


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