Alvin Jett & The Phat noiZ Blues Band - Honey Bowl
Blues Boulevard Records / Bel Aire Continental Music
Albert King with a Fender Telecaster meets Robert Cray over at Otis Rush’s house. Sound good to you? It does to me. Jett’s vision sounds like a Bluesman in the 21st century. He has absorbed Hendrix, Stax, a bit of Albert Collins, and someone like Tom Principato or Mike Bloomfield. If Joe Louis Walker is to your liking, you’re going to appreciate Alvin Jett.
“Make Me Blue“ is a good way to start the disc. Energetic song, well crafted. The lyrics are believable and convincingly delivered. Several key changes for the solos (sax and guitar) demonstrate a musical literacy that is so often missing from Blues recordings. This musical device isn’t necessary in a three-minute song, but, as featured in Z.Z.Top’s “La Grange,” or B.B.King medleys, is as potent as Bacardi 151 in longer pieces.
The next track, “Lay My Burden Down,” is in no way connected with the fantastic Gospel song, but it’s good. It’s funky and slightly aggressive. An honest lyric with a nice rocking groove.
“Bluesman’s Hat” is an admonition—As one doesn’t piss into the wind, one doesn’t presume to touch a Bluesman’s sky. This one is fine for a live performance. Maybe it will be the source for a suburban legend. The harp adds a welcome texture.
Track #4, the title cut “Honey Bowl” is not successful at being lascivious. Too bad.
The 5th track is written and sung by bassist Matt Davis. “The Wreck” is a nice idea with a good delivery. The song is well-crafted, right out of the Robert Cray playbook. I like the Montgomery-to-Cray guitar solo. The ensemble horns take the song directly to where it was intended.
Davis also composed “Three Minute Man.” This is a slow blues that summons up Jimmy Roger’s “My Last Meal,” or Rice Miller’s version of “Four Nights Drunk.” It’s wry and has the sting of the truth to it. “Three Minute Man” is the first song I’ve ever heard devoted (with an amusing pride) to substandard performance during “romantic opportunity.”
The instrumentals, “Lucky Charms” [#7], and “Dem Haters” [#10], and “Me, You, and Cyndee” [#12] are all competent, journeyman pieces. The first is somewhere between Fleetwood Mac’s “Albatross” and an early CTI Records tune. The second is very reminiscent of Tom Scott’s L.A.Express. The last, a sort of generic “Breezin’.” If you’re unfamiliar with these associations then you will probably enjoy these pieces.
The arrangement of “Graveyard Shift” uses the bass and horns in a thoughtful way. It’s a slight reference to SRV, but not one of those ‘I can do that, too’ clone things. Once again, true lyrics, well crafted.
The closing cuts, “A Year or Two or Ten or Twenty” and “Runnin’ Like a Dog” are both really good songs. The first is a nearly comprehensive account of life flying by a man who is losing the battle to survive. The final cut is very much Albert King doing “Phone Booth,” aggressive and driving. It, too, is a strong piece.
Reviewer John Harrelson has been playing Blues since 1965 and worked in virtually every genre of music; Folk, Country, Jazz, R&B and Rock. He holds a Ph.D in Historical Musicology from Claremont Graduate University and a B.A. in Anthropology and Ethnomusicology. www.johnharrelson.com