Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Flavor. The Flavor, debut album

The Flavor.  The Flavor.
Love Muffin, 2011.  The Flavor:

This one’s a little old for a review, but I couldn’t resist and I’m in charge.  Besides, good music is timeless, or so I keep telling myself as I get older and most current trendy music recedes as irrelevant to me.  The Flavor (the name sounds like an 80s band) is a blues-based, multi-generational roots rock quartet based in Cleveland.  A classic bar band most commonly found at the Barking Spider these days, the guys have all been in other groups or worked solo.  They’re still working on their second album, so we’ll review this one.

The group basically combines blues with various styles of rock (mostly early), some country music, and splashes of other things as seasonings.  They begin with a short spoken intro in the studio (we’ll hear such things again), discussing how the opening track, “Hot Sauce,” is to go, from minimal, just the singer, guitar, and percussion, to the full band by the end of the song.  It sounds like a gimmick intended to make them sound rough and uncut, since as it turns out they recorded the album over five months in twenty sessions, so I call foul.  However, the song ends up sounding just like they described, a bluesy rave, so I shouldn’t complain too much.  It does indeed start off small and end big, and I wish they supplied credits for the singers (Landes and Wolf are both leads), because he’s good.  “Goin’ up North” moves us into rockabilly country, somewhere between Gene Vincent and Ricky Nelson vocally (if they sang together), but with guitar solos that neither of them would likely do.  Similarly, “The Truth” and “Hot & Bothered” are in a rockabilly vein, solidly performed and with great guitar work.  “My Guitar” is in the same style, but is more of a comedy song.  As we move through the album, we get other styles.  “Before You Let Me Go” sounds more modern than the previous track (and by more modern, I mean more like Creedence Clearwater Revival crossed with T-Rex), and “I’ve Lost your Love” is a country ballad.  

With “Vertigo” we get a very different sound, more of a straight rock tune in some ways, but with a curious, perhaps even psychedelic feel.  Very 60s.  “Odd Man Out” somehow manages to invoke blues, rockabilly and T-Rex all at the same time, a pretty good trick. “Bleedin’ Soul,” is a slow blues burner, nicely done, while “Short-Haired Woman” takes us into a fast boogie.  The longest track is “Closer to You” (no, not the Carpenters’ song--that’s “Close to You”).  This one is more of a singer-songwriter ballad with blues influences, pretty good but not my favorite song.  They wind it up with the shortest track, an instrumental that features the guitars, all John Fahey in style.  A fine end to a fine album.  

The Flavor show that they are capable of any number of roots styles, and perform all of them with considerable flair.  While the guitars are most prominently featured, the rhythm section is rock solid throughout, providing the foundation for a group of very fine songs.  I look forward to their next release.  Their web site lists their next concert for May 2014 at the Barking Spider.  Go get some Flavor.

Personnel:  “Hot Sauce” Joe Landes (vocals, rhythm & lead guitars, resonator guitar, slide guitars), Dave Mann Wolf (vocals, rhythm & lead guitars, piano, mandolin, lap steel, autoharp, melodica), Adam “Low-End Meat” Rich (bass), Ernie “Ern Dogg” Richmann (drums, percussion).
Tracks:  Hot Sauce, Goin’ up North, Before You Let Me Go, The Truth, Little Girl, I’ve Lost Your Love, Hot & Bothered, Vertigo, My Guitar, Odd Man Out, Bleedin’ Soul, Short-Haired Woman, Closer to You, End.


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