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Hybrid Groove - Just About Feeling

Hybrid Groove Productions

This is the self-released debut-CD by the Florida-based 5-piece Hybrid Groove, who actually have been around since 2000. Fronted by singer Amy Savage and guitarist/harp player Ken Lettich, the band started out as an acoustic unit before adding guitarist Joe “Cleanhead” Buscema, bass player Christian Cousin and drummer Jim Wegener. Today the band is far more electrified, playing a loud and no-frills blues, flavored by rock, funk and soul.

Savage is your archetypical powerhouse blues belter, following the path of Janis Joplin, Tina Turner and Koko Taylor. She developed an interest for gospel early on, and that surely has influenced her passionate, high-voltage, singing style. The guys in the band are all competent players, and everybody sounds locked in like the kind of band that has been doing a lot of regional gigs and festivals.

I can imagine Hybrid Groove being a really solid live band, with a lot of energy and Savage pumping up the crowd with her power vocals. On record – and I better choose my words carefully since this is a debut CD from an unsigned band - it would have been great if the dynamics and performances had more variety… that there were a greater span of emotions expressed. Savage can definitely sing and apply the attitude of a Joplin or a Turner. But that power would have so much more of an impact if she also could express vulnerability - simply a greater range of emotions instead of limiting herself to just belting. Sometimes singers can indulge themselves too much in the sheer power of their instrument, and lose the connection to the lyrics – the telling of the story instead of just singing the melodies. Hybrid Groove chooses to cover not only one, but three, really over-played standards in the blues book: “Born Under A Bad Sign”, “Stormy Monday” and “Summertime.” Their arrangements of these songs are not personalized in any way. As a singer in this day and age, if you want to sing lines like “I can’t read, I never learned how to write” or “fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high,” you’ve got to ask yourself what these words mean to you… how do you relate? You have to find your personal connection to the words and not just belt the songs out.

In their original songs, Hybrid Groove have some pretty cool ideas, like the changes of groove in “Matchstick,” and a great riff in “Swamp Queen.” Developing a personal sound is the hardest thing to do for a musician and band, besides staying together. But Hybrid Groove definitely are ready and able to take that next step on their musical journey, since they’re all great players and have an obvious chemistry and locked-in feel. For now, this disc should be a great way for the band to secure more gigs and get the word out about them. It does live up to its title… I’d just like to see a broader palette of feelings being expressed, and a more personal take on blues classics that already have been covered by an infinite number of people.

Review by Nikki Oneill

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