CD: 10 Songs; 29:56 Minutes
Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock
Remember the ‘90’s hit band Nirvana? Their musical oeuvre riveted people across the globe, due to Kurt Cobain’s singing and guitar. When he conquered the known world with his shredder, as surely as Julius Caesar did with his legions, his vocals were jaded and ennui-ridden. Kurt didn’t really sing as much as he talked to his listeners, no matter how high the volume of conversation. Blues fans, keep that in mind as you listen to the UK’s Alex Haynes and the Fever. Echoes of Nirvana’s grunge rock reverberate in Bandit Blues Motel – their fifth release. Most of the band’s other offerings are digital only, but Bandit Blues Motel is on hard-copy CD form. Featuring ten original songs, Alex Haynes channels Cobain, while the Fever backs him up with raw instrumentation. Purists may point out that this isn’t so much a blues album as a blues-rock album, and they’d be right. Nevertheless, it’s worth at least one listen, because Haynes’ vocals are an acquired taste.
According to the band’s website, “Alex performs solo, as a two-piece with Richard Coulson on drums/piano and as a trio – with bass and drums. Initially, vocal comparisons to the Kings of Leon are not entirely out of line although the sound is more akin to Seasick Steve or early-Black Keys. However, Alex cites other influences – the downhome blues of artists like John Lee Hooker and RL Burnside, the tough R&B and soul sound of Chess [Records], a touch of R’n’R via the Brit Blues of groups like ’60s era Fleetwood Mac, with a little of the unorthodox blues of Captain Beefheart thrown in.” Their promotional information sheet contains further commentary: “Haynes started out playing acoustic blues and folk in cafés and bars around the north of England. Following a move to the capital, he formed Alex Haynes and the Fever in late ’06 as a bass-less trio, with a debut release – the mini-album Last Train in early 2011.”
On Bandit Blues Motel, Alex Haynes performs on vocals, guitars, electric piano, drums and percussion. Joining him are Richard Coulson on electric and acoustic piano, percussion and drums, and Lorne Stockman on harmonica.
The following song is most representative of the blues side of this CD, as opposed to the hard-and/or-mellow-rock side:
Track 01: “Jungle Kid” – In this reviewer’s opinion, the best blues albums have a gritty stomp or two in their repertoire. Bandit Blues Motel’s opener delivers in nearly top form, aside from the fast-strumming guitar intro and rocked-up chorus. “Got an alligator heart with a crocodile smile, holding on to the reins, going to make it all worthwhile. Ain’t coming down. Why don’t you come on up? Come on over to the other side and try and test your luck. I’m the king of the jungle, baby – you my jungle kid!” Being closest to traditional blues, track number one is number one on the CD.
Alex Haynes and the Fever sound more like Nirvana than Howlin’ Wolf, but in the cutthroat world of album sales, most bands aim for appeal in more than one genre. This is the case with Bandit Blues Motel, which brings the “Teen Spirit” of the ‘90’s back!