10 songs – 40 minutes
Singer and guitarist Dave Sadler was raised in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, a town that was also home to blues legends Big Bill Broonzy and Cedell Davis. Sadler himself is aspiring to the same high standards as his forebears, as evidenced by his new album, Matchbox, a solid collection of 10 hard-hitting, guitar-centric modern blues and blues-rock songs.
Matchbox comprises five original tracks, written by Sadler himself, and five well-known covers. The covers are a fair reflection of Sadler’s approach to the music. Kicking off with rocky version of Koko Taylor’s “I Got All You Need”, the horns on the original are replaced by Sadler’s over-driven rhythm guitar with over-dubbed lead guitar featuring a series of artificial harmonics suggestive of something ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons might play. It’s a cracking start to the album. Carl Perkins’ “Matchbox” is played as a mid-paced shuffle with Duane Allman-esque slide guitar and a stop-chorus that hints of Elmore James’ “I Can’t Hold Out”. The Meters’ “Cissy Strut” has an extended, jazzy opening before the classic instrumental lick arrives, doubled by the guitar and the bass. “People Get Ready” is given an instrumental treatment and “Killing Floor” is played pretty straight, although with a rockier edge than the Wolf’s original, particularly in the use of artificial harmonics again. None of the covers is played identically to the original. Sadler respects the originals but he is not afraid to re-interpret them or take them in a different direction. As a result, he successfully breathes new life into each track.
Sadler’s own songs fit well with the covers. “Junior’s Jam” is a driving instrumental based on a riff not dissimilar to “Born In Chicago” over which Sadler cleverly lays an sliding chord melody. It provides Sadler the opportunity to stretch out on guitar for three minutes, which he does with impressive energy and intensity. His other instrumental, “Fourth Street Ruckus”, is an upbeat, swinging horn-driven beauty of a song, with lovely harp from Roly Platt. “Satisfaction Guaranteed” is a mid-paced, funky track, with excellent fluttering harmonica from Sadler himself. “You Put Me Out” is a flat-out rock’n’roller with roaring slide guitar and uncredited piano and organ to the fore. “You Should’a Known” also displays funky blues influences with wry lyrics explaining to a woman how his attempts to impress were consistently being foiled: “I found my old suit, I did my best. I went down to Walmart to buy you that dress. Told your little brother, that he couldn’t tag along. Got a table for two at Susie Wong’s. You should have known, known, known, known, you should have known.”
Sadler is a fine singer and guitar player and he receives solid, swinging support throughout from a variety of musicians, including Jim McCarty, Frank Biggs, Jesse Rocha and Mel Sarreal (drums), Randy Landas, Dave Grant and James Ryan (bass), Marvin Taylor (drums, bass and guitar), Pat Murdoch (guitar), Phil Clark (organ) and Dan Cipriano (horns).
Matchbox is a highly enjoyable collection of modern electric blues, centred around Sadler’s muscular guitar playing. Warmly recommended.