Not being a big fan of over-the-top 'bluz-rock,' David Gogo's "Halfway To Memphis" didn't grab me right away. Despite impressive fretwork, his sonic assault on Muddy's "Louisiana Blues" really didn't say much. Nor did "Click Clack," a rather psychedelic twist on "Two Trains Running," quite spin my personal crank, though again the guitar work was exemplary, ferocious and feral with David snarling away against a funky backdrop.
Ah, but track three, a cover, of all things, of Willie Nelson's "Night Life." Piercing leads. Moody organ. Way cool. Then came "Bad Faces,' a Gogo original, with a Robert Cray-ish slinky soul feel about it; David, though, powers it with razor-sharp slide, augmented with tremolo-drenched rhythmic underpinning. And by the first few notes of David's "Soul Fever," a straight-from-Texas take on an SRV-style shuffle, I was an unabashed fan.
The title track rides a Memphis groove, with an unmistakable Southern feel courtesy of Rick Hopkins' wheezing organ and David's evocative slide work. Things crank up with another go at Muddy, with "Rollin' and Tumblin" getting a Johnny Winter-style treatment, furious slide and slightly distorted vocals; it may lack the inherent dignity Muddy brought to everything he did, but it's sure got an equal degree of menace. Few would dare tackle "It's A Man's World," indelibly associated with Mr. Brown; David's take, though, is damn near as soulful, albeit taking a somewhat different approach to the tune. David gets my 'Excellent Choice Of Covers' award for his take on Eddie Hinton's blue-eyed soul chestnut, "Testify," again featuring excellent organ from Mr. Hopkins. The song's secular but the fervour's gospel all the way, and David does the tune justice indeed, his solo here reminiscent of fellow Canuck Jeff Healey.
Another Gogo original, " I Should Have Lied," is a funky rocker with a sinuous groove; David wraps things up with an almost-ten-minute medley of classics, two by Wolf, two by John Lee Hooker, and the Willie Dixon-penned "Wang Dang Doodle." On both, David's playing, for all the technical mastery on display, is simply too much. Music is like pickle-flavoured ice cream . . . just because it can be done doesn't mean it should. Silence can mean as much as sound, and grace, in the long run, counts for more than force.
Still, those whose tastes run to Steve Ray Vaughan, Gary Moore and their ilk - searing licks against pounding rhythms - oughta love this one. And while it's easy enough to make comparisons (this one sounds like SRV, that one like Cray, etc.), for the most part David manages to put his own stamp on things. Where resemblances are apparent it's only because David's spent the requisite time soaking up sounds of the seminal figures in a traditional genre.
What does it all add up to? A seriously rocking outing that maintains a healthy respect for tradition yet stretches to encompass guitar work that goes all the way to the edge. If that's whatcha like, you won't find better.
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