soundbites
September '02

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Bad Mother Trucker
Ten Foot Pole- Victory Records

As emo rock and pop-punk ease their way into the mainstream of radio play, it becomes more difficult to distinguish the Sum 41’s from the Jimmy Eat Worlds. So when Ten Foot Pole’s newest album, Bad Mother Trucker, contains tracks that stand out from the crowd, that’s remarkable. What’s not surprising, however, is the album’s inconsistency, with a good measure of depth and songwriting ability often outweighed by production shortcomings and run-of-the-ordinary lyrics.

Songs like “Giving Gravity A Hand” and “Armchair Quarterback” display a maturity and uniquely critical viewpoint that prove this group can write good music. Why, then, do they begin the album with “Plastic,” a comparatively shallow pop song that contains the line “I want to last forever/Like plastic in the landfill of your memory”? Sounds like the title of a Billy Ray Cyrus song.

Ten Foot Pole’s chops are evident with tempo shifts and strong guitar. The songs on Bad Mother Trucker are catchy, but for every great track there’s a mediocre one. —Casey Adams

Soul Deep
Lee McBee - Pacific Blues Recording Co.

If you like a little variety in your blues, Lawrence/KC singer, songwriter and harmonica player Lee McBee is the man. His latest recording Soul Deep mixes it up. On some of the tracks, he plays traditional blues, as on covers "Ride with Me" and "It’s Your Voodoo Working." On other tracks, he borrows from other musical traditions to create a fresh blues sound.
McBee has one of those whisky and honey voices that’s never totally smooth or totally rough. At times, he sounds as authentic as an original Delta bluesman. At other times, the vocals are a bit too smooth.

His "Twelve Hours From You" combines warm blues guitar with a bossa nova beat. The title cut "Soul Deep" depends on smooth vocals and a feel reminiscent of ‘50s soul music.

With "Country Blues II," he gives a nod to the Mississippi Delta, with high-pitched, twangy vocals and a plucky slide guitar, piano and harmonica accompaniment. McBee’s originals "Woman Down in Arkansas" and "I Don’t Understand" have roots firmly planted in tradition.

If you’re a blues neophyte, this CD will give you a good sample of the blues music’s many sides. If you’re a seasoned blues aficionado, you’ll likely fully appreciate McBee’s versatility. —Deborah Young

Revolverlution
Public Enemy- Slam Jamz and KOCH records

After a long and sometimes outlandish battle with the recording industry, Chuck, Flava and the boys finally released a new record in its physical form, rather than the internet-only enigma that was 1999’s There’s A Poison Goin’ On.

Revolverlution may have broken the band away from its experimental meddling with the industry’s status quo, but it may be too little, too late for the originators of leftist hip-hop. Releasing their previous album on an Internet-based format may have been an attack on an industry that had done wrong in their eyes, but it was also an inadvertent attack on a majority of their audience: those without ready access to the information superhighway.

If Revolverlution was a remarkable album, perhaps things would be different. But the disk plays like a eulogy for an once-mighty music phenomenon, mixing a handful of mishandled new tracks with fuzzy live and classic tracks obviously mishandled by an assorted spattering of DJs.

The album’s only gem, the anathematic “Gotta Give The Peeps What They Need,” stands out like a supermodel with a brutal left hook: A furious political assault with the betterment of their “peeps” in mind. But what is it they need? Mp3 players? CD-RW’s? —Ron Knox

In Blue
Karrin Allyson- Concord Records

A roller coaster ride of melodies with traces of Ella Fitzgerald fills Karrin Allyson’s eighth album, In Blue. A definite win for both the blues addict and novice, the vibrant, bouncing bass and dancing piano compliment Allyson’s sweet yet sometimes sassy vocals.

Allyson’s seemingly effortless yet captivating singing speaks directly to the listeners. Everyone can relate in some manner.
The listener smells the smoky ambiance surrounding “The Meaning of the Blues,” which Allyson also arranged. Oscar Brown Jr.’s “Long As You’re Living” dances with its uncommon yet striking 5/4 rhythm.

Stylistically, In Blue is not a traditional blues album; rather, it simply contains songs that describe having the blues. She says of “Hum Drum Blues” in the liner notes: “It’s about being fed-up, sick and tired, but trying to find comfort — even if temporary — in someone’s arms.” Although this describes many tracks on the album, each song finds its own way to express itself.
Jessica Chapman


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