Back To Reviews page

Steve Rowe - Five

Blue Skunk Music

15 tracks/64 minutes

The latest release from Canadian guitar hero Steve Rowe features a batch of original tunes co-authored with bassist Alan McElcheran, who shares vocal duty with the leader. The band is rounded out with Sam Harrison on drums. Peter Mika adds keyboards to several tracks and “Uncle” Bob Harrison adds his brushwork on the drums to several of the jazzier tracks.

Rowe repeatedly proves that he has plenty of skill as a string bender. He rips off one solo after another that crackles with energy and speed. At times Rowe’s playing reminds the listener of other guitarists. On “The Original Son-of-a-Gun”, he adopts a tone similar to B.B. King while “Little Too Young” channels Stevie Ray Vaughan. The closing track, “La Vie en Blues”, is an instrumental that offers proof that Rowe knows how to build and maintain intensity in a solo without resorting to worn-out guitar tricks.

There are a number of strong tracks on the disc. “The Black Hole” describes a club where not even the strong survive. When McElcheran exhorts Rowe to get lost, he answers with a biting solo that moves quickly, yet never feels rushed. Uncle Bob shows off his light percussive touch on “Like A Motor”. Rowe’s playing slows down a bit and he has a softer, fuller guitar tone that fits the light jazz feel of the song. “More Grits “ is another instrumental with a strong contribution from Mika on organ. Rowe unleashes a passionate solo that ends too quickly. The opening track, “I Believe I’m Gonna Go Back Home” finds Mika’s organ driving the arrangement and Rowe burning through several solo spots.

Most of the tracks on the disc are solid, ranging from the easy swing beat of “Gone Fishin’” to the uptown funk of “Swing, Bop, Shuffle”. The one cut that really deviates from the rest of the program is “Interlude (Into the Light)”, which slows the pace dramatically on a country-tinged instrumental piece. The guitars must have been tightly miked during this recording as you can hear fingers moving up and down the fret board of the acoustic guitar throughout the track. Rowe turns in a delicately nuanced solo. “Merry-Go-Round Blues” is a slow blues showcase for Rowe’s blistering guitar work.

Rowe and McElcheran are adequate singers – up to the demands of the songs without adding any personal expression that elevates any of the tracks into the essential category. That leaves it up to Rowe to distinguish this disc from the flood of releases on the market. His guitar work definitely merits a listen and the variety of styles plus generous playtime; this release should make for an enjoyable experience for most listeners.

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

  To submit a review or interview please contact:

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