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Mike Hammar & the Nails - Recipe for the Blues


12 tracks/58:17

Based out of northern California, this band has tearing up the West Coast for the last decade, highlighted by their being named the winner of the 2009 Monterey Bay Blues Festival Battle of the Bands. Mike Hammar is the front man, handling the lead vocals and guitar. He also wrote all twelve tunes on this project as well as producing the recording.

Possessing a powerful voice, Hammar is able to hold the listener’s interest by varying his vocal approach from track to track. And his fervent guitar work is a consistent highlight throughout the disc. His bandmates include Allen “B3 Blues” Carroll on organ & keyboards, “Harmonica” Jim Pedersen on harp, Sparky Gehres on bass and Greg Merino on drums. Photos of the group included with the package suggest that they are hardy veterans of music as well as life.

The disc opens with the title track, which is built around the John Lee Hooker’s boogie riff. Hammar describes learning about the blues from his father’s records as he barks out a laundry list of blues legends. “Arrested at the Catfish Fry” takes a humorous look at a night out on the town gone all wrong. Hammar, Carroll and Pedersen all turn in lively solos. The band shifts to a funkier groove on “Miss Katrina”, which could serve as a travel guide for some of New Orleans highlights.

The proceedings shift to a gospel-tinged vein on “Yes I Will”, with Hammar’s eloquent vocal and soulful guitar picking making this track one of the highlights. “Carry On” works the darker side of the human experience as the leader belts out a message of hope in the face of life’s travails. Carroll fleshes out the arrangement with fat chords from his organ. “Suited for the Blues,” sounds like it was borrowed from the Robert Cray playbook. The grinding rhythm of “Down at the Junction” provides a launching pad for a fiery solo from Hammar.

Pedersen and Carroll trade licks on “Workin’ Overtime” before the leader turns in another solo that burns up the fretboard on his guitar. Pedersen’s harp is featured on “Who’s Richer Than Who”, which has a country music feel and is the weakest song on the disc. Everybody gets a chance to stretch out on the lone instrumental “Hambrosia” with Hammar and Carroll once again distinguishing themselves.

Hammar pours out his grief on the passing of his mother on, “This Ain’t Goodbye”. Pedersen’s mournful harp tones lead into Carroll’s organ, which takes you to church before Hammar’s heartfelt singing and gentle guitar picking closes out the disc.

There is plenty to enjoy on this release. This band of veterans really works well together plus they have the very capable Mike Hammar leading the way. If they could put together a full program of material on a par with songs like “Yes I Will” and “Carry On”, there would be no holding them back. This one is definitely worth a listen.

Reviewer  Mark Thompson is president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford, IL.

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