When the time comes for a bar band’s initial recording, many opt for a live session. Technology has made it possible to achieve thoroughly satisfactory sound, so it’s usually much cheaper than booking studio time. The energy level is generally much higher thanks to the chemistry between performers and audience. And when a distribution deal is absent, a live recording serves as the ideal demo, showcasing what potential bookers are likely to get.
Having honed their chops in Twin Cities clubs since 1999, Minneapolis-based Cool Disposition were clearly ready when they headed into Famous Dave’s to record their debut. While crowd noise is almost entirely absent (unfortunate, that), there’s no doubt this is a live session. The band is pumped, the energy level off the meter, and it’s obvious that everyone involved, whether on stage or not, had a wonderful time.
Led by the smooth vocals of Mickey Bauer and propelled by Dan Schwalbe’s brilliant guitar work, the band (also featuring harmonicist Harold Tremblay and the fine rhythm section of bassist Greg Beach and drummer Dwight Christensen) rip their way through an up-tempo playlist of standards like “Rock This House,” “Mellow Down Easy,” ”Next Time You See Me,” Wolf’s “Howling For My Darling,” and “Good Rockin’ Tonight.”
In short, there aren’t any big surprises here - the band’s originals (all but the instrumental opener courtesy of Mr. Bauer), to their credit, sound much like the classics they’re covering - and many bar bands mine much the same territory. But everything’s done with infectious enthusiasm, and Cool Disposition are blessed with two members that raise the bar significantly.
All too often blues bands treat vocals as a necessary but ultimately inconvenient afterthought. Mickey Bauer, though, is a real, honest-to-goodness singer; where others would simply shout out a line, Mickey remembers the melody, and teases each word for maximum effect. Then there’s Dan Schwalbe. Over the course of the disc’s thirteen tracks, he’s endlessly inventive, seeming to toss off just about every classic riff ever invented and a whole bunch more that haven’t. Simply put, he’s a monster, his playing alone rendering this collection a cut above.
So is this an essential acquisition? Well, no. There are too many discs at least superficially similar out there by now, too many versions of too many of these songs. And the sound here isn’t great. But as a document of a working band having a great time, it’s a fine record indeed. Fans of the band will certainly want a copy (I’d guess they move a LOT of product off the stage), and if it’s used as a demo, the boys better clear their calendars; they should be getting a lot of work out of this one . . .
Cold Wind Records
4400 Stinson Blvd, Minneapolis, MN 55421
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