Based on the atom-smashing guitar workouts alone, this record is quite the catch; add to that a wicked wit, a keen intuition, and knowing, gravel-worn vocals, and you have the makings of an original.
Artist: Ian Siegal and the Youngest Sons
Label: Nugene Records
Time: 11 tracks/55 min.
I’m not sure if the shark-skin boots that adorn the cover of Ian Siegal’s latest release, The Skinny, are the real thing or not, but I wouldn’t doubt it. Siegal looks, and sounds, like he would detest anything less than genuine, and I imagine he has vanquished a shark or two, and the occasional crock or rhino, just for the sake of variety.
It’s a shame, but a bluesman like Siegal is getting harder to find these days: a rough and tumble oracle of vice and virtue, part myth-part man, solid as a Mustang GTO, nimble as a cobra.
Throughout The Skinny, Siegal and his band – all sons of legendary bluesmen - swing, sway, and slide inside and around a blues-rock groove that is touched with a welcome kiss of dust, diesel, and swamp water.
“You can take the coward’s path, or take the higher ground”, Siegal chides on the title track, a declaration of cutting to the truth despite the consequences, soon after unleashing a slide guitar solo that had me mopping my brow.
Fierce, firebrand guitar lines cast a net of red hot, blue, and gold sparks far and wide, as they fuel, and are fueled by, a solid set of songs, and rich, earthy vocals. Beyond standard-issue wah-wah propels “Stud Spider,” which occasionally leaves room for some surprising otherworldly shrieks. “Hound Dog in the Manger” portrays temptation in a humorous, and striking, fashion: “If we had met in a past life, I could have took you as my first wife”, as guitars dodge, dance, and dual about a dark and sinuous grind. Twin guitars kick-start the groove on “Master Plan,” an impressive list of feats designed to win the girl – slay a dragon and wrangle a shark make the list (no surprise), as do a few other super-human exploits.
“Moonshine Minnie” wouldn’t sound out of place on an Alice Cooper record, while “Devil’s in the Detail” offers a change of pace – guidance, instruction, and warning set to a call-and-response march, driven by fife and drums.
“He ain’t crazy, he’s just miscast,” claims Siegal in “(Hopper) Blues for Dennis,” a funky paean to the recently deceased actor, as well as a tribute to the universal mantra of the free spirit. The coda echoes that mantra with a six string scramble that spirals to heart attack heights.
The core state of the blues – down and out, beaten, and bereft - has never been characterized in finer detail than “Better Than Myself,” which is upbeat despite the subject matter: “Whole lot of nothin’ and a whole lot less to lose.”
Fortunately, there is a whole lot to be gained by turning an ear to The Skinny. Based on the atom-smashing guitar workouts alone, this record is quite the catch; add to that a wicked wit, a keen intuition, and knowing, gravel-worn vocals, and you have the makings of an original.