Back To Reviews page

The Phantom Blues Band - Footprints
Delta Groove Productions

Review by Dale Clark

I would hire this band in a heart beat to do a television theme or popular movie soundtrack, to back a pop singer in a Vegas show, or to lay the sound under a commercial.  But I wouldn’t walk a block to the nearest city park to hear them play for free on a warm summer evening, and I certainly wouldn’t tell a friend to buy this album or spend any of her or his finite lifetime listening to it.

This is the kind of music you hear all the time inadvertently, the soundtrack of our commercial lives.  This is “industrial music” in the sense there is a music “industry” and elite members just beneath the celebrity echelon get called on when someone needs a “professional” music job and needs it fast without any “creative” hassles.

Need a classic (the Nat King Cole “A Cottage for Sale,” for instance)?  Check.  Can you prove you are paying attention to the blues trends with a bit of a stomp (“When Malindy Sings”)?  Bank it.  Want to show you’ve got a sense of humor (Rufus Thomas and B.B. Cunningham’s “Fried Chicken”)?  Done.  How about a keyboard plaint (“A Fool For You”)?  You bet.  Can you do a pseudo-spiritual, a kind of Blind Boys from Alabama thing (“Chills and Fever”)?  Amen.  Need a washed out, de-politicized reggae (“When the Music Changes” sounds like a cleaned up “Small Axe“)?  Can do.

And when you are through recording don’t even bother to thank your mom, girlfriend, and God Almighty; but instead compose some soothing words to your label head and thank the likes of Fender, Ampeg Amps, Sabian Cymbals, AKG Microphones, Protection Racket Cases, etc.

On this album every guitar phrase is turned just right, each horn line is crisp, the keys are sparkling, the vocal moans are in strategic places, the ensemble timing is almost machine precise-- all as if effortless.  Phantoms are now you see them, now you don’t phenomena, perhaps with supernatural powers or at least with the power to trigger our own wild imaginations. The name “Phantom Blues Band” seems a most deliberately chosen evocation of the invisible sideman.  Being highly regarded studio musicians and backing players (notably, the Phantom Blues Band is Taj Mahal‘s band) has to give a person a here and gone ego, an economic existence dependent on the ability to suggest things that may or may not be so, and then vanish.

On this album these phantoms try to spook up the notion we have heard that authentic blues thing, the intangible “real deal.”  But some of us do not believe in phantoms and are pretty sure the authenticity thing is tangible enough, though the difference does have a great deal to do with what the band can get the audience to imagine.  Popular music consists of familiar codes.  Recite the codes, make glib associations to good times, trigger the pleasure centers of the brain, and win the appreciation of the happy crowd.  Invisible players, gifted phantoms, can do these things.

But the authentic artist addresses us as human beings, stimulates far more than the pleasure centers of our brains, throws us some unfamiliar code to decipher, gets us re-living our lives, and in some way-- however indirectly-- makes herself or himself vulnerable to our response.

There is not one thing about this album that suggests this band could possibly care what we think, that they are in any way susceptible to being changed by our response, or even that they believe we are capable of thought.


Click HERE for More reviews and interviews

To submit a review or interview please contact:


Home  |  Contact  |  Submit Your Blues News - Advertise with
 Copyright - 2007 - Design by: