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Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat - Tijuana Bible

By Gary Weeks

16 songs; 71:21 minutes;

A few musicians enjoy the luxury of working in two bands. Derek Trucks holds down lead guitar duties in the Allman Brothers while fronting his own Derek Trucks Band. Co-guitarist Warren Haynes leads Govt Mule when not working in the Allmans. The Allman's don't tour year round so it is easy for these musicians to juggle schedules. Luther Dickinson, guitarist with the North Mississippi All-Stars, now works with the Black Crowes. The Crowes are actively touring so Dickinson cant devote too much time to his other outfit.

Playing second guitar behind George Thorogood sounds like a good job. The tour dates seem steady with little down time. Whatever down-time there is, Texas guitarist Jim Suhler makes it work while leading his own band Monkey Beat.

Which all leads to Monkey Beat's latest cd Tijuana Bible. Fans of classic rock will get over an hour of music that leans heavily on the riffs taken from AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and ZZ Top.

Title cut "Tijuana Bible" slowly cruises along with its Billy Gibbons lead guitar lines. Guitarist Elvin Bishop guest-stars on "Drunken Hearted Boy" adding tasty slide guitar work. Suhler tears through AC/DC's "Up To My Neck In You" on a mean bedrock of rhythm. Friend Joe Bonamassa adds textural musical lines on "Deep Water Lullaby" that is a beautiful ode to Jimi Hendrix. The lyrics alone are a dead giveaway.

It seems there is something for everybody to enjoy on this cd. Rarely do any tempos drag and the music stays upbeat enough to hold listener interest. "Border Rock" is a loose happy Tex-Mex surf rocker.

Jim doesn't put too many shuffles on this disk. When he does, something like "Chaos In Tejas" takes on an ominous groove of swagger with Fandango under-tones. Suhler rips off screaming slide solos in the jazz rock of "Years Of Tears." In the moderate shuffle tempo of "Mexicali Run," Suhler lays down a John Lee Hooker boogie groove. "Sunday Drunk" is another dance happy rocker in the vein of "Border Rock." Suhler pays tribute to Rory Gallagher in the slide orgy of "I Could've Had Religion." The acoustic "Juice" pumps the bag steadily. The piano ballad of "Cold Light of Day" finishes this set on somber tones.

Suhler has the best of both worlds. He plays guitar with a blues rock legend. And when he can find the time, he works with his own band trying to squeeze in as many dates as possible. Not too many people can have full and part-time jobs like that. It's not too bad of a deal if you can withstand the rigors of the road. There are worst ways of earning a living. Jim probably doesn't have any complaints.

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