I remember seeing Fabricators' lead singer John Witmer many a time in the seventies and eighties, when he fronted a succession of bands that bucked trends by concentrating on music rather than haircuts. His resume includes stints with Whiskey Howl and Downchild, both legendary in Canadian blues circles.
John has since relocated to Vancouver, and now fronts an accomplished quartet, here augmented by an extensive guest list on a collection of mostly studio tracks with a few live cuts thrown in as well.
John's history seems germane, as there's an almost palpable sense of "soul survivor" to this project. It's almost a relic insofar as we don't get these often anymore, collections of blue-eyed soul and R&B played with impeccable taste and infectious enthusiasm by road-hardened veterans.
With the lone exception of B.B.'s "Woke Up This Morning," all tracks were written by either John or bassist Larry Smith. They mine traditional grooves, but the arrangements make better use of the constituent parts - Dave Vidal's guitar and David Webb's organ and piano, in addition to Mr. Smith's bass - than the average formulaic twelve-bar tune. The horns are sparingly applied as well, the 'less is more' approach adding value to each accent, each fill; in short, there's intelligent songcraft at work here.
Lyrically theirs is a thoroughly contemporary perspective, many of the tunes featuring a wry acknowledgement of how difficult it is to lead a middle-aged life. Production is adequate, the horns in particular having a nice brassy edge; elsewhere there's a hint of the compression often found on indie recordings, and the sound lacks a certain depth. I'd guess it's a budget issue; the packaging also marks this as an independant undertaking rather than major label release. Taken on those terms, neither detracts from the success of the project as a whole.
Ultimately it's Mr. Witmer's vocals that make The Fabricators something special; reminiscent at times of the late, great Hock Walsh, there are also hints of Boz Scaggs and some Patrick Vining in there. But John isn't trying to imitate anyone; it's simply that his is a voice up there with the greats.
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Website : http://www.vru.com/fabricators/
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