I have to admit, I was ready to write off the blues as another spent force. I truly felt there was nothing anyone currently could do that is worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence with legends like Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson or Leadbelly. And you know, I still feel that way, but I'm not quite ready to write off blues as a dead horse, at least not as long as I have Planet Blues debut CD. This collection oh, so gradually wooed me in with its smart, smoky, tightly woven tapestry of harp-driven Delta raunch, which defies their Southwestern Jefferson County roots. The songwriting is good to marginal, but the playing is the fuel that runs the thing.
Guitarist/vocalist Greg Claggett may be the next local guitar legend with his "son of" Stevie Ray Vaughn lead work, which seems respectful of the tradition, while still creating it's own style. Check out the wah-wah playing on "Can't Be Loved." It's nothing like the Hendrix psychedelic interpretation that's usually associated with the wah-wah pedal. It's Claggett's own truly amazing concoction.
"Ashamed Of My Self" tells of a man who is feeling the forbidden attraction to another woman who's already spoken for, with Claggett's guitar and Danny Hord's harp interplay being the soundtrack for the narrator's remorseful tale. Musically, the interaction between these two and bassist George Murphy are light years ahead of most of the playing heard in this area. The texture of the counter melodies these three (along with drummer Chris Shartzer) produce creates a multilevel listening experience, which brings to mind Double Trouble's most inspired work.
Speaking of Double Trouble, "Walk A Mile" has to be one of the year's hottest local cuts. The high intensity groove, which climaxes with Claggett's most electrically charged solo of the set, only drives home the "don't judge me" theme with a raw urgency that simply cannot be mixed into a recording. Like I said earlier, it's the playing.
Obviously, a lot of sweat and hard work went into these recordings, but from the hard work of reality to the surreal and sublime of the REM sleep mode, let's close with "Wastin' Your Love." I happened to doze off while listening to this cut the other night. Proudly, without the aid of a chemical substance, this slow, minor key blues became the musical backdrop of an incredible moonlit Louisiana Delta dreamscape complete with moss-covered trees, croaking frogs and the hue of the aforementioned moonlight changing colors like a kaleidoscope. And once the band hit that last chord: I experienced cold chills, and with no codeine!
But don't just take my word for it, check this group out. Since these guys aren't that old, one can only imagine what time will do for Planet Blues. It's the stuff local legends are made of.