This is the third Tone-Cool release for Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish. I have enjoyed their generally hard-rocking blues and have given them a lot of play. I've always been curious about this band. Even though they have a raw blues sound, they hail from the east coast (rarely traveling far, it seems) and purportedly have become legends on the island of Martha's Vineyard - a playground of the rich and famous. Not exactly "paying your dues." Their record label proclaims that they are President Clinton's favorite blues band!
This release is done in a mode best described as Chicago - style blues with touches of country, zydeco and roots rock. The core band features Johnny on all lead vocals and on many cuts a driving harmonica. He is a powerful singer, sounding a bit like a slightly worn Bruce Springsteen. He approaches the level of a balladeer on some cuts. The Bluefish share the instrumentals, providing some particularly tasty guitar and keyboard work. The band featured on this recording includes: Jeremy Berlin on keyboards; Hoy's (now ex) wife Barbara Puciul on bass; Tauras Biskis on drums, and Slim Bob Berosh on guitar. Ten of the thirteen cuts are Hoy originals, showcasing his song writing skills.
The majority of the songs are more or less mainstream blues tunes, generally with something of an up tempo "party" flavor. These include the opening cut "Love Dog"- a catchy song based upon the devotion of a dog - rather than the usual "being treated like a dog" theme and a raucous version of the Burnett/Dixon classic "Howling' For My Darling." "Honkytonk Forgiveness" has an outright country sound, even using a pedal steel guitar. "Just Another Wheel" also has a county slant, employing a violin and banjo. "Opelousas Sostan" is a Cajun clone (as you might expect by the name) and includes the requisite French lyrics. "Rooster Walk" combines Hoy playing a very gritty harp with a guitar and a growling organ in an instrumental done in with a "chicken scratch" theme. The release concludes with one of the strongest - and as the name says, rockingest - cuts on the album, a Hoy original "Rocking My Life Away."
While occasionally a bit clich’ed, this release provides some rockin' blues and stretches the envelope a bit by touching upon some other genres. Overall, it is quite enjoyable. The band has a WEB site at: www.capecod.net/johnnyhoyandthebluefish/index.html.
This review is copyright © 1999 by Mark Halverson, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.