17 January 2016


@ Bandcamp // fB //

Tonight's a good night for some moonshine music. Some smart, late-night funky, backyard boogie on the patio music. Tonight that music is played by a band called Charlie Patton's War.

I don't imagine y'all would think of poking around the dark, dank, instrument-strewn basements of Bloomington, Indiana's college party houses searching for clues to what the future of blues-based music sounds like. But maybe you should. 
Now, I'm not talking thee 
future...as in, AllHailTheBeAllEndAlliHaveSeenTheFuture. I'm talking about this post-Black Keys/postWhite Stripes/T-Model Ford/R.L. Burnside Vs. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion world of punk-soiled, blues-begrimed, soul-sodden Now.That's where Charlie Patton's War comes from. This is their modern blues.

Recorded old-school style, live to eight-track, on first listen the album has a tight, raw immediacy, and that sound deepens with each listen. The band recorded the album as a project for the University of Indiana's Recording Arts Program (which happens to be where they met) and as a result of the skills they acquired there the album easily achieves a natural balance between crisp studio sound and dirty ol' blues swang, a good soulfully rocked-out-blues-infected-primitivism. 

Like most young bands, Charlie Patton's War started out playing the college basement party circuit. We've all been there. A trip down creepy blind wooden stairs to a dank and stank room lit by a couple desk lamps and a blue or red overhead bulb, sour beered carpets, and maybe some blinking Xmas tree lights for some real sexy ambiance. Everybody's there. That one drunk guy (or three drunk women) that always want to yell into the mic. The guy that falls on the drums, and over in a corner a girl sits crying in a soiled La-Z-Boy. Later, fists'll fly over something stupid, and the po-po will show up. It's a riot. Eventually, the band moves on to tours of bars and tavs filled to SRO with raging college kids and a few professors. But it's the woodshedding through those foul basement years that the band learns to successfully hone a couple tight sets into these eleven stompin' bluesey-eyed Indiana soul songs

The album starts with Get Gone, a red-line distorted country blues boogie riff that drops down into a chiming, chunky, slinky groove about creepy people. 

Fatties is a B-3 fueled rumpus, and a minimalist exercise in terse, deep pocketed funkiness that goes places you might not expect. 

Say Ya Mine, a tough, swingin' blues boogie founded on a surprising Fender Rhodes piano riff that leg wrestles with a gnarlyass slide guitar. You win.

Highway Blues is a nimble top-down rock-a-billy-train-ridin' number. It's map-snappin' road music, both city and highway miles. It'll getcha' there.

Fancy Things is a lovely live track that I could hear a young (or comeback) Rod Stewart, or a country-souled-out Jerry Lee Lewis cover. Justin Hubler's Charlie Rich-ified piano does the legends proud and the 'Stones/Skynrd-like classic back-up vocals by Ariel Simpson and Sydera Theobald make this one timeless.

You know, not many bands can name a song Barry Sanders and get away with it. This short, tightly-swinging, fuzzed-out rocker acts as a sort of a dividing line for the album. Then things change. 

Black Bell is a heavy, breathy, tension-filled groove, cut hard by Kyle Houpt's fire-starting guitar solo and Aaron Frazier's haunted, soulful vocals ( he sings lead on about three-fourths of the songs.) Frazier's drumming kicks throughout the album but it's here that he stomps hard enough to break the levee. Charlie Patton's War moves through Black Bell like a dark blue monster, lumbering and gliding through the Brown County forest at midnight as Blake Rhein's guitar solo rouses a dusty orange mid-west moon through a green tornado sky. The band's modest use of strings, arranged by keyboardist Justin Hubler, really pays off brilliantly on this song as a fresh, surprising texture to carry the song out. A spot-on piece of work, best played loud.

Track eight, Vincennes, is a Black Key's-ish organ-laden cold burning soul blues that grooves like a slow train hugging the curves of the Wabash river, leaving home for good.  

Call Me Baby is a rocking hybrid of Eddie Cochran's Something Else that starts out like The Jam circa Private Hell or In The City then de/e/volves in to some kind of Jon Spencer hanging with Elvis at Sun blues boogie thrill ride. The Jim Jones Revue would dig this one. 

The second to the last track is Frisco Ride. If Creedence covered a re-mixed R.L. Burnside jam...

The set ends on track 11, with a wonderfully weird and orchestrated country song that sounds like a brilliant home recording. It starts out sounding like a gentle cover of the 'Stones Far Away Eyes complete with steel guitar, then shifts forty-degrees with the addition of a small clutch of harmonizing singers that sound like a sad-hearted family sing along accompanied by Charlie Rich with a touch of countrypolitan strings for texture. It's a surprising and lovely end to a fine collection of songs from a great new band. 

Charlie Patton's War is band that will keep the blues alive by taking it out of its precious antique bell jar and letting it breath, letting it live free. I look forward to hearing more.

No comments: