Blue Loon originally released Rockin' Daddy and the Rough Cuts' "Straight Shooter" album to critical acclaim in 1993. Although the band took a sabbatical in 1996 to work on individual projects, the good news is they are back--Steve Grosshans and Dan Schwalbe remain--and a new album is in the pipeline. In the meantime, "Straight Shooter" is available again, and it is easy to see why it was revered first time around.
The style is what you would expect from a Twin Cities blues band: a large slice of Chicago with a side helping of West Coast for good measure. The most obvious comparison that springs to mind is early Fabulous Thunderbirds, with Steve Grosshans' vocals sounding uncannily like Kim Wilson in some places. Grosshans also acquits himself well on harp, laying down his marker with a big fat tone right from the first bar of the opening title track.
Dan Schwalbe, who had a hand in writing nine of the ten original songs, does an exemplary job on guitar throughout. The reverb laden sound he achieves on several tracks ("Baby Please," Floyd Dixon's "Don't Leave Me Baby," and so on) sees him staking a claim in the territory occupied by the late Hollywood Fats, Junior Watson and, more recently, Kirk Eli Fletcher. Schwalbe is not a one dimensional guitarist, however, and freely swaps styles and sounds to match the particular tune.
The pick of the tracks is a toss up between the SRV-like "Creepin" and "She's Gone." Each showcases the synergy between Grosshans and Schwalbe, albeit in different ways. On "Creepin'" each takes his chance in the spotlight, whilst on "She's Gone" Schwalbe provides some very sympathetic accompaniment to Grosshans' harp blowing, which manages to successfully combine Sonny Boy Williamson II and Little Walter whilst still sounding original.
The new Rough Cuts line-up sees Dave Sanny (drums) and Marty Bryduck (bass) replacing Gregg Schuck and Jack Taylor respectively. "Straight Shooter" shows that the new incarnation of the band have got a lot to live up to. The new boys are both veterans of the Twin Cities scene, however, so I expect big things from the new CD, which is being slated for release by Spring 2000. Until it comes along, check out "Straight Shooter" to see what you have been missing out on for the last few years.
Rockin' Daddy and the Roughcuts: http://sites.netscape.net/theroughcuts/homepage/homepage.html
Blue Loon: www.blueloon.com
This review is copyright © 1999 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.