Ever known one of those people who are unquestionably gifted, yet never seem to live up to their promise? That's sort of the feeling I got while listening to Terraplane's debut, "Bound By Live."
The promise was there right from the start; a tight, uptown-slick rhythm chugging along in support of Foster Willey Jr.'s squalling harp caught me right away. And while I can't say Foster's vocals struck me as particularly strong, the song just got better and better. I'd guess it's a one-try take; the band seems to slip deeper into the groove as they go. The rhythm guitar is spot-on, and Foster sounds more assured with each verse. The slinky "Don't Lie," co-written by Foster and Mark Vandermyde, also had me hooked from the first notes; powered by the latter's moody B3 (Mark also contributes piano to the project), it shows guitarist Dave Hofgren equally adept at nasty, snarling leads.
Mr. Willey is the star of "Everything Is Uptight." Credits call it 'traditional'; I can't say I'm familiar with the tune, but it's anything but stuffy here, everyone swinging along nicely with lots of bounce in the beat and Foster's harmonica cooking up a storm.
"Come-N-Home Baby" is a cool minor-key instrumental that lets Foster stretch out once more with some very fine melodic work. And "Hardway" bubbles along on a funky groove, with Foster and Mr. Hofgren engaging in some intricate interplay that shows Terraplane put a great deal of thought into their arrangements.
So far so good. And the cover of "Little Angel (Precious)," written by Annie Lennox (remember 80's pop sensations The Eurythmics?), really isn't bad. Bassist Jon D. Donovan and percussionist Rey Rivera form a fine rhythm section, so the band's up to the challenge musically; with Mr. Rivera's congas in the mix, they even manage a bit of a calypso feel towards the end. But "Real Love," another of Foster's contributions, simply doesn't work. Somehow the song seems terribly busy, yet lacks any punch; it's also, for those who are counting, strays pretty far from the blues. And "She Takes My Love" tries to be tender - I suspect there's a story there, and I'm sure Foster meant well when writing the song - but ends up sounding somewhat uninspired. "We Tumbled Down," again, just doesn't quite make it. The mix isn't good, with the guitars muddy and the again-too-busy percussion intrusive. It's too bad, because the individual contributions are first rate. Things wrap up with a cover of Jimmy Vaughan's "Tilt-A-Whirl," recorded live before an obviously adoring crowd. And here the promise shows again; these gents absolutely nail this tune, and if they sound this good live I can only hope they hurry back into the studio with a bigger budget and some thought towards tougher tunes next time out.
The promise is there. C'mon, guys, give us another go!
Foster Willie Jr.
M I Blu Studio
607 22nd Ave. NE
MPLS, MN 55448
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