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Biscuit Kings – Hambones & Trombones

Mind Smoke Music

Time: 49:32: 12 tracks

Bass guitarist Jeff Goldstein and vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Johnny Pierre make up the band the Biscuit Kings with a dozen or so “Special Guests” dropping in to add the rest of the instrumentation to the tracks making up the CD Hambones & Trombones.

At first things seem to show promise when opening cut “The Day I Met My Waterloo” kicks things off. The tune’s funky New Orleans gumbo beat recalls the delicious musical groove of the city’s favorite sons The Radiators. And if the rest of the tracks followed along this musical course, then this music would be a barbeque party favorite. Pierre’s dusty whiskey nicotine vocals suit the material and Goldstein and the rest of the players lend strong support. Al Speed’s piano playing creates boogie fever in following track “Hot Barbeque” and at this point you feel the party is really getting started.

Sadly it’s not meant to be. Things start to turn south on “Love Turns To Gold.” At this juncture the music hits a flat line and the tempo for the rest of the tunes becomes so slow that there aren’t many occasions it can drag itself out of the hole. Many a time you wish the rest of the song collection would focus on the upbeat glow that permeated the first two tracks. Pierre seems to lock into the concept of singing cry-in-your beer ballads. That’s not bad for a couple of songs. Doing it for the rest of the CD not only creates a somber mood but an air of impatience as in when are things going to pick up?

A glimmer of light shows in “Marie Aguilar” where string arrangements by V. Deferens create the feeling this song was written in the nineteenth century. At best it seems a tavern favorite for that particular period as if a group of pirates raided the joint.

Praise has to be heaped on Johnny Pierre for writing all of these tunes. Rather than stage an all raid on the usual tired textbook standards that have appeared countless times on various blues CDs, you have to commend the man for running into the fire even though the results are not the best ones. The production is crisp and clean. The problem doesn’t lie in the production. The bulk of the material just doesn’t push itself out of the starting gate grabbing you by your coat sleeves. And while you may feel comfortable turning on some of your blues brethren to the music in your collection, you will be hesitant to do so with this. It’s not because the tunes don’t rest under a blues-rock umbrella. The material is just too simply slow-paced and the Biscuit Kings don’t light the fire to give it an edge.

In a live situation it could be a different story. But one thinks if material like this was played at a blues fest, people would get up and head to the food and drink lines.

And while the Biscuit Kings proclaim “Mardi Gras is Over” in one of the closing tracks, there’s a feeling of emptiness because while they pay homage to the Crescent City, they really don’t take advantage of getting a party off the ground. Pierre has the potential to create a spicy gumbo of American Roots Music. A lot less of cry-in-the-beer ballads and more danceable material can go a long way in creating a piece of work that’s enjoyable and an immediate cure for insomnia.

Reviewer Gary Weeks is a contributing writer. He resides in Marietta, GA.

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