Let's face it - blues is rarely about lyrics, is it? Most of us have heard the "classics" so often really we really don't pay much attention anymore - it all has more to do with how they're sung than the words themselves. And modern lyric themes often seem somehow shoehorned into the music. Yes there are exceptions, but often it's just not a comfortable fit. Which goes a long way towards explaining the appeal of "Bumpy Roads," the sophomore effort from Ottawa's Trevor Finlay band. Trevor's an observant fellow, with a wry and inventive take on modern life. Hence the clever observations contained in "Mother Goose," which borrows bits of nursery rhymes to explore failed relationships (don't worry, it works!), or the witty "Coffee" ("Nectar of the gods/Helps my disposition" - this is a guy I can relate to!). And hey - ever seen someone so beautiful/handsome you just couldn't help but stare? Trevor sums it all up in "Naturally Drawn." He's helpless in the face of love in "Heard Enough," and describes every hotel occupant's nightmare in "The Couple Next Door."
Trevor, who handles guitars and vocals, leads bassist Barry Buse and drummer Mark Rehder through a smoldering set that straddles the line where blues meets funk-rock. Guest Ken Fahie's keyboard work adds welcome texture and depth to the mix.
Avoiding 'power trio'clichés, the band opts instead for well-crafted and musically intelligent arrangements that expand upon the standard 12-bar foundation in new and creative ways. In other words, there's not a lot here for purists; even the relatively straight ahead tunes hide surprising twists and turns. But Trevor understands that it's the tension that matters. Whether he's layering scorching slide over crunching chords or picking out funky riffs, there's a sense of barely-controlled (but controlled nonetheless) fury to his fretwork. To me it's that, more than anything, that keeps things solidly at the blue end of the spectrum.
Of the twelve cuts on the disc, only three are covers; Trevor applies a unique, swampy beat to Hank Williams' "Jambalaya," gets downright ferocious on "Hey Bo Diddley" (complete with excursions into what might best be described as "space-swamp"), and takes Little Walter's "It Ain't Right" at breakneck speed, in the process re-inventing the song entirely.
If this were a major label release, overdubs and/or retakes might smooth over a few (very few, actually) rough edges. But that would be to the detriment of the project as a whole, 'cause what you do get, rather than studio sheen, is the exuberant enthusiasm of a young band playing their hearts out with energy and passion.
And as good as this one is, I have the sense that there's much more to come from these guys. My advice? Pick this one up now. Enjoy. And later you too will be able to say you knew 'em way back when.
Website: www tfband.com
Mail: Box 295, Orleans, ON K1C 1S7
This review is copyright © 2001 by John Taylor, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
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