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Meantooth Grin - Before The Devil Knows Youíre Dead

KAM Records

12 tracks

The good thing about being a music critic, DJ or someone in the music business is that you get to hear a lot of bands you might otherwise never hear about, or you at least get to hear about them a lot sooner than most people. Meantooth Grin is a powerhouse blues rock band hailing from nearby Wausau Wisconsin who really mix up the mud of Mississippi Delta with the fire of Texas rock and blues. Led by Tom Jordan on guitar and vocals, these guys burn it up on their recently released premier CD.

I did not know what to expect when I popped the CD in. The cover shows a devilish looking guy with a National Resophonic Guitar, laughing and playing in front of the hell fires with the shadow of the devil on the stone wall beside him. The title of the album supported the perception of "sell-your-soul-to-the-devil" blues, too. The CD has a short spoken intro (written and performed by Doug Kroening, another upcoming Midwestern bluesman) backed by crickets, baying hounds and the steel guitar. The lyrics are talking about staying one step ahead of the devil and such, so when the first real track started I must admit that I was a bit unprepared. What came out of my speakers was some blazing hot distorted guitar licks back by a solid rhythm section more like ZZ Top or Johnny Winter than the traditional music from the crossroads in the Mississippi Delta. Amped up and solid guitar work and vocals by Jordan, backed by band mates Brian Miller on drums and Seth Heffner on bass, I listened to these guys totally rock out the first two full tunes and just said, "Wow!"

"Drive" and "Killing Time" were the first two tracks of all original stuff; they were followed by long, slow blues number "Dark Was the Night", showcasing Jordanís gritty vocals (which remind me a lot of the talented Noah Hunt) and stinging guitar play. We also get the first really good taste of guest musician Pete Shankís Hammond B3 organ here, too; heís more than solid on the keys. I especially enjoyed the title track where Jordanís distorted vocals and steel guitar deliver the goods in a track reminiscent of the Drive By Truckers style of macabre lyrics. The gimmicky and scratchy 78 rpm record sounding "Evil Woman" and "Insomnia" feature Jordan going solo acoustic and showcasing another side of his talents. Cole Holliday adds his harp work to the CD, and it literally blows the listener away in tracks like "Killing Time", "Tommy Gun" and "Homeless and Homesick".

This is a solid initial offering from a talented trio of local guys with a pair of equally talented backups on hard and organ. The all-original cuts give us their take on traditional and rocking blues, and let me tell you that given what I heard I canít wait to track these guys down and listen to them live!

Reviewer Steve Jones is secretary of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL

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