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The Robin Thrush Jr. Band - Music City Jam, Live in the Studio

Self Release

11 tracks - Total time: 66:36

The mid- and late 1960s found the melding of traditional electric blues with the new sounds emerging from rock ‘n’ roll that created a new rock genre, blues-rock. Propelled by young guitarists who loved the blues and played in rock bands, the genre came into its own at the hands of those such as Eric Clapton and Cream, Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin, and Alvin Lee and Ten Years After, with Lee immortalizing the genre through his filmed performance on the Woodstock movie. Blues–rock was characterized above all by young dynamo guitarists such as these, whose virtuosity and creativity pushed the electric guitar to its technical limits in playing that depended on long guitar solos; indeed, one way to characterize blues-rock vocal numbers is that they are long, extended guitar solos with vocal breaks, instead of the standard other-way-around. Robin Thrush Jr. and Music City Jam, Live in the Studio are squarely in this tradition. Still a teenager of only 19 when he recorded Music City Jam in 2009, Robin Thrush Jr. first began playing guitar at three, has fronted the Robin Thrush Jr. Band since 2000, and played at both the Sarasota Blues Festival and the King Biscuit Blues Festival in 2004. Lead vocalist and guitarist with the Robin Thrush Jr. Band, he is backed by David Richardson on drums and father Robin Thrush Sr. on bass.

This means that Music City Jam, Live in the Studio, the Band’s third CD, is a blues-rock recording rather than a blues recording that rocks, and is essentially a showcase for Thrush Jr.’s guitar playing, which is quite technically adept and impressive. The rhythm section of Richardson and Thrush Sr. is solid and supportive, providing unobtrusive rockish underpinnings. While blues-rock has never been particularly characterized by emotional depth and nuance in its vocals, Robin Thrush Jr.’s vocals are emotive within the general confines of a genre that’s more guitar-driven than vocal-driven, and where songs for performance are chosen more for their simpler lyrics that lend themselves to easy repetition than anything else. Yet given this, Music City Jam, Live in the Studio is far from uninteresting or emotionally flat. Robin Thrush Jr.’s vocals project appropriate desperation on track 2, “Parchment Farm,” the band’s version of Mose Allison’s adaptation of the Bukka White classic; Bod Diddley’s “Who do You Love,’ track 4, is given a sinister edge; and Thrush spits out the lyrics to “Spoonful,” track 10, with declamatory assertiveness.

Music City Jam starts out frenetically with Big Joe Williams’s “Baby Please Don’t Go,” and gives a psychedelic feel to Hound Dog Taylor’s arrangement (from the Beware of the Dog! album) of B.B. King’s “Rock Me Baby,’ track 5. The same psychedelic rock approach fuels Thrush Jr.’s approach to Memphis Slim’s classic instrumental, “Steppin’ Out,’ track 9. Robin Thrush Sr. does the vocals on a Cream tune, “Sleepy Time Time,” track 8, and fittingly enough, the final track is a rendition of blues-rock pioneer Alvin Lee’s “Woke Up This Morning.” “Woke Up This Morning” combines with a Robin Thrush Jr. Band original, “MC Jam #11,” for an extended track that’s 11 minutes and 10 seconds long. The same is done with “Who Do You Love,” where the Diddley number flows into “MC Jam #4” on a track that’s 14 minutes and 16 seconds long. In fact, nine of the CD’s 11 tracks are longer than four minutes each, and four of them are longer than five minutes each—yet the length never renders any track here overlong or boring. Music City Jam, Live in the Studio does indeed flow well, and Thrush’s long guitar jams always carry the listener’s attention. Rounding out the tracks are three more Robin Thrush Jr. Band instrumental originals: track 3, “MC Jam #3,” track 6, “MC Jam #6,” and track 7, “Music City Blues,” which builds around variations on a standard slow blues melodic line. Music City Jam provides the listener with music moods and approaches that vary from frenetic to lyrical, pensive melancholy to exuberant rock, all highlighted by guitar mastery from young Thrush. If one likes blues-rock, one will indeed like Music City Jam, Live in the Studio.

Reviewer George "Blues Fin Tuna" Fish hails from Indianapolis, Indiana, home of blues legends Yank Rachell and Leroy Carr. He has written a regular music column for several years. He wrote the liner notes for Yank Rachell’s Delmark album, Chicago Style. He has been a blues and pop music contributor for the left-wing press as well, and has appeared in Against the Current and Socialism and Democracy.

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