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Microwave Dave and the Nukes – Last Time I Saw You
13 tracks / 53:20
I am a sucker for clever band names and Microwave Dave and the Nukes is a winning handle that gives a hint of the good times music they play. Good times abound on their seventh album which is mostly blues-based music, but ends up having a little bit of everything in it. Don’t worry though, because all of these songs groove.
There are ten original tracks, along with two cover tunes and a bonus track of mechanical noise (an automotive winch, or so I have been told). Much of the original material is written by guitarist and vocalist “Microwave” Dave Gallaher, who founded this group in 1989. The Nukes consist of James Irvin on drums and Rick Godfrey on the bass and harp, completing this Alabama-based trio; all three are all accomplished bluesmen and first-rate musicians.
The album kicks off with “Drinkin’ Wine Since Nine”, which grinds but (like all liquor-themed songs) does not have the most intellectual lyrics. If you were not previously familiar with the band, this delta-inspired track provides a perfect introduction for Dave’s growly voice and dirty slide guitar work, as well as the tight and adventuresome duo of Irvin and Godfrey.
As I said earlier, there is a little bit of everything here and the second track “Jesus was Smart”, shifts into a countrified shuffle and provides the listeners with some clever and smart-alecky lyrics.
And the surprises just keep on coming. I have been listening to blues for a while now, and cannot remember the last time I heard a full-fledged lengthy bass solo on a blues album, but “I’ve got a Bet with Myself” delivers one, along with a fine selection of AC/DC to ZZ Top up-tempo rock riffs.
The journey through the album finally slows down for a lovely blues ballad, “The Worst Thing” which provides Dave with the opportunity to show off some truly soulful guitar work. His voice and guitar work magically together.
I cannot resist the Billy C. Farlow cover tune, “Alabama Saturday Night”, which has a tough Bo Diddley beat to it, thanks in no small part to the thumping drums laid down by James Irvin and some pretty sweet harp work by Godfrey.
“All Night Boogie” is indeed a boogie, and features impressive Keith Moon-esque drumming throughout, almost like a drum solo that happens to have a blues song happening on top of it. James Irvin is very talented, and his playing throughout is considerably more complicated than what is found on more conventional blues albums. This song has really stuck with me and is my favorite on the album, so kudos for doing something a little bit differently, gentlemen.
Heading into the final half of this CD, there are twists and turns through the influences of the Appalachians, and possibly Memphis, before things get decidedly weird (in a good way).
You will see what I mean, because as the album ends, it takes a couple of unexpected turns, first with “Vagabundos”, a surf tune with Gallaher providing Spanish vocals in his distinctive baritone, and then with “Rafferty”, a 7-minute AOR instrumental that is amazingly melodic . Microwave Dave and the Nukes have provided a little something for everybody on this album, and it is quite a trip!
By now you probably realize that this is not strictly a blues album, but overall is great entertainment and a lot of these songs have made it onto the playlist I am putting together for my next party. I think Last Time I Saw You will appeal to most blues followers, and I think you should give it a listen.
Reviewer Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician; his blog can be found at rexbass.blogspot.com.