CD review / Cool Disposition
The title of the brand-new disc from Cool Disposition is "Jumping in the Mudd," a clear reference to the group's collective love of the music of Muddy Waters. But, as it careens through my speakers, it seems that Muddy is really one step removed ...
The title of the brand-new disc from Cool Disposition is "Jumping in the Mudd," a clear reference to the group's collective love of the music of Muddy Waters. But, as it careens through my speakers, it seems that Muddy is really one step removed and that the direct inspiration is the legendary Fabulous Thunderbirds and their classic late '60s and early '70s albums that spread the blues gospel to a whole new generation.
Whatever the spark that helped ignite the creation of "Jumping in the Mudd," I'm glad the tinder was dry, because this group has come up with a new disc that is stellar. It balances moments of off-kilter rhythms and solid, maddeningly catchy grooves. There are harp solos that explode like Mount St. Helens and carefully manicured guitar rides. It has moments of passion over precision with howling harmonics, and brooding vocals that transmit their intensity almost telepathically. "Jumping" covers a lot of ground, and does so with aplomb.
"What Comes Around" has that regal shuffle style that feels like you're sailin' on cruise control down the turnpike in a Cadillac De Ville with a V-8 motor and wide chrome wheels. Group founder and frontman Mickey Bauer penned this one about a possessive and vindictive male whose creed is "an eye for an eye." Bauer tears into lyrics like a starving puma on "Drag me through the mud, you're gonna' get muddy too" and "Tread on me, I'm gonna' do some treadin' too." Boston native Harold Tremblay's harp ride is smooth and silky, while the guitar sounds like it's stuck in a New Orleans swamp.
"Put Your Money Where Your Big Mouth Is" has got that T-Birds grit and gristle, with text about making a difference in the world. Guitarist Dan Schwalbe's insistent rhythms put musical scaffolding around a solid fusion of lyric and groove. His solos echo the clipped, staccato sound of Stevie Ray's big brother, Jimmie, that trumps the usual swift-fingered mayhem favored by so many current blues axe-slingers. Schwalbe delightfully ignores the S.O.P. of too many notes and goes the economy route. Throughout the disc the guitar always seems to find parts that are right in the pocket.
Ex-Lamont Cranston and Hoopsnake piano pounder Bruce McCabe played with members of the T-Birds back in the '70s with a band called Aces, Straights and Shuffles. He guests on "Messed Up" and adds just the right slinky, understated touch behind the vocal line, then steps out on a strollin' little lead full of Pete Johnson right-hand trills and cascading single-note phrases. These are bluesmen at work ... no "b" in the bunch.
"Time Keeps Ticking" has that "Scratch My Back," an old Thunderbirds' classic, feel with slammin' double guitar and a burnished, spartan solo. It's followed by Tremblay's thick, creamy harp solo that is like icing on the blues cake.
The record is about to hit stores in mid January and dials in elements from Muddy's colossally important '50s bands with Little Walter and Otis Spann and the '70s Austin, Texas, connection of the T-Birds. Using their own sensibilities, Cool Dispo comes up with a concoction that, like guitar man Schwalbe's playing, is tight and right.
JOHN ZIEGLER writes reviews for the News Tribune. You can reach him at email@example.com .
CD Title: "Jumping in the Mudd"
Genre: Traditional blues
Recommended if you like: Muddy Waters, Lamont Cranston Band, the Fabulous Thunderbirds
Recorded at: Subterranean Blues factory, St. Paul
Members: Harold Tremblay (harp), Dan Schwalbe (guitar), Mickey Bauer (vocals), Greg Beach (bass), Marty Bryduck (drums). Guests Bruce McCabe (piano), Dave Hupp (keyboards), Steve Clarke (baritone), Sue Orfield (tenor)
Web site: www.cooldispo.com .
Upcoming gig: Sunday at Oly's Pub, 323 W. First St. in Duluth
Listen to "My Better Half" at duluthnewstribune.com.