Genre: Blues, R&B
Sounds Like: Muddy Waters, Robert Cray, Johnny Winter, Lynyrd Skynyrd
Best Songs: Earthquake Mama, Makes Me Blue
Strengths: Instrumentation, Songwriting craft, Lyrical Content
Weakness: Amateur design/illustration
Overall Rating: 9/10 Stars
2012 sees the release of 4 piece blues band “The Bluecats” latest CD entitled “Earthquake Mama”. The band hails from LA and includes Tony Battelle, (Harmonica and Vocals), Steve Ebner (Drums), Keith Pittell (Guitar), and Victor Patron (Bass). The album also features contributions from Kirk Nelson (Keyboards) B.B. Chung King, and Mark Newstetter (Guitar) and Juliette Angeli (Backing vocals).
The Bluecats kick things off with a tune in the standard blues format, “Pocket Full of Rain” is a stonking opener, complete with walking bassline and driving rootsy rhythm getting the motor running and your foot tapping at same time. This is swiftly followed up with the title track “Earthquake Mama”. A much steadier, courser and earthier sound. Here theHammond organ and piano create a stirring backdrop whilst the drums provide for atmospherics and a little tension. Steve Ebner’s toms sound full and rich in timbre. With carefully interspersed blues harmonica and overdriven electric guitar, the Bluecats demonstrate just how slick and accomplished their sound really is. The careful use of space ensures that the mix is not overcrowded and that everything has its own place within the song. By the third track “Does She Love Me” we have a good handle on the Bluecats sound. It is raw and rocking with all the classic ingredients of the staple blues standards wrapped up in original tunes. The songs follow the ubiquitous blues formats ensuring that the connoisseurs of this genre find everything they expect in the classic R&B sound.
Throughout the rest of the album the cats constantly deliver song after song of pure unadulterated rocking blues. Each and every musical asset, from the rough-round-the-edges bluesy vocals through to expertly played honky-tonk piano, smokin’ blues guitar solos and flawless rhythm section, they never fail to impress. There are no “filler tracks” on this CD. Even the carefully placed backing vocals from Juliette Angeli provide glossy sheen over the production making the tracks shine with vibrant professionalism. Her contribution, for me at least, put me in mind of the classic Lynyrd Skynyrd live album “One more from the road” – one of my all time favourite recordings.
My only minor criticism of this album would be in the cover illustration, which unfortunately, misrepresents the quality of the music on this CD. It is an amateurish offering devoid of composition and substance, a mere literal interpretation of the title track. With music of this calibre it is important to get the visuals right as album artwork is an integral part of the product. Indeed it sets the listener up for what he/she is about to experience – it is therefore an overture or prelude to the audio inside!
The Bluecats seem to have an impressive back catalogue and I would imagine that they are a real blast to see live. If pure slick and highly polished rocking blues following in the traditions and heritage of the genre is your cup of tea… then you really need to have “Earthquake Mama” in your collection. I’ll be watching out for future releases from this outfit, as they can only go from strength to strength with this kind of music.
Neil Thomas (UK)