The trio of Brent Laidler (guitar and vocals), Jeff Newman (drums) and Craig Schnarr (bass), appear in a range of guises that stretches as far as a big band. For their official debut album, "Bitter Coffee" LNS (as they are also known) used twelve musicians in all. The five piece core of the band--LNS plus Todd Miller (lead guitar) and Garry Smith (keyboards)--laid down the basics for the album in two nights. Co-ordinating the rest of the
recording appears to have taken a little longer, however.
The band set their stall out with "Blues Man," the first of 10 original songs. It has a nice balance between the core of the band and the horns. Miller gets a chance to impress on guitar, without ever going over the top, and Laidler shows that he has a very good voice which sounds a bit like Gil Scott Heron in places. The band encompass a range of influences, and on the ensuing "What You Get," show off their Latin side, which has echoes of Santana in the opening guitar solo.
It is back to the blues for "Every Time I Get Mistreated" which chugs along nicely. It is slightly let down by excessive use of backing vocals, however, a criticism that can also be leveled at "Mustang Sally." It is not that the backing vocals are bad, they just get in the way a bit too much when the sound is already pretty full.
The band also get funky in places too, firstly on "Some Kind of Woman" with a its fine combination of guitar, bass and organ. The arrangement of Louis Jordan's "Early In The Morning" also owes at least a little to N'Awleans for its arrangement. After that the album closes out in a nicely relaxed vein with "TWC - The Weather Channel," a neat instrumental with a Bossa Nova beat.
"Bitter Coffee" is a good album, that shows off some of the best of LNS. The big band line-up works well (with the already noted minor exceptions), with the horns gelling really well with the core of the band to flesh out the sound. The mix of styles all hangs together well too, and never sounds disparate. For some reason the comparison that came to mind during listening was Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons, a band from down under who were popular in the UK in the early 1980s (anyone remember them?). Either way, "Bitter Coffee" is a well crafted album that deserves a listen and merits repeated plays.
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