For those not in the know (an it helps if you are), Houston based blues solo artist Alex Gomez is the latest one man slide guitar practitioner to deal in a raucous fusion of traditional and contemporary blues dressed in a frenzy of electric charged fuzz guitar and Beefheart style vocals.
Blues hipsters will doubtless rejoice in this rough edged, down to the bone return to the Delta, that recalls the likes of Hound Dog Taylor in its raw uncompromising attack. Such esoteric blues fans will also doubtlessly point to the thinly disguised Bo Diddley riffs, as on the opening Macon Bacon, and the Elmore James style runs on New Orleans and Strawberry Wine, as evidence of a true blues man at work. The less enlightened blues fans might prefer to categorise Gomez as a latter day George Thorogood with traces of say Link Wray. Either way Alex Gomezís music is going to split the blues and rock fraternity in half.
That said, an eclectic album like this will probably end up on the few remaining challenging music programmes on the radio, or more likely on specialist internet radio stations.
Me? I smile at the manís fevered approach, and enjoy picking out the influences, but as a whole Iíd have to conclude that the album as a whole is an indulgence to far.
If traditionally the blues has dealt with wine, women and drugs, then Alex does no more than resurrect the themes to flesh out several interminable slide work outs. The slide guitar surely makes its biggest impression in the tension breaking runs, that often follow a catalogue of blues stories, as the singers woes come tumbling down. On this album Alexís gut raw vocals, and an unwillingness to veer from a limited musical repertoire, means that as a critic you are either in or out, and Iím afraid Iím out on this one.
In truth Always Never is the kind of album that people will probably talk about a lot, but play little. Just like Beefheartís Trout Mask Replica, it may be cool to drop the artists name or album title, but a whole lot more difficult to sit through with repeated plays.