CD: 11 Songs; 37:00 Minutes
Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, Contemporary Electric Hard Blues-Rock
According to the online version of Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, the word “esoteric” means “only taught to or understood by members of a special group,” “hard to understand,” and/or “limited to a small number of people”. It’s commonly used when referring to political jargon or legal documents. On the other hand, its opposite, “exoteric”, is almost never used in modern conversation. As one might expect, it means “suitable to be imparted to the public”, and/or “belonging to the outer or less initiate circle”. What do these two definitions have to do with blues music? Mainly this: Its popularity is due to its esoteric nature – its suitability for everyone. One need not have studied the guitar to appreciate Muddy Waters’ riffs, or be a poetic genius to sing with a lusty Wolf as he’s “Howlin’ for my Darlin’.” On some level, all of us have had the blues: trouble with money, trouble with love, or trouble of the soul. Now, here’s a case study.
Denmark’s Fried Okra Band may sound like the perfect exoteric blues band, at least on paper. They’ve even named themselves after a Southern dish that’s considered the ultimate country comfort food. One would expect their music to be blues “comfort food,” just the same. It should be tasty to the ears, yet go down easy, preferably with a few catchy choruses to remind listeners of the musical feast they just enjoyed. Instead, what fans will get if they dive Back Into the River is an arcane mixture of electric hard rock, strange lyrics, obscure rhythms, and the vaguest suggestion of traditional blues. Consider the first track below.
If Fried Okra’s eleven original selections are true blues, they’re “drone” or “trance blues”, reminiscent of those from the North Mississippi Hill Country. They’re meant to induce a state of hypnosis, allowing the mind to wander and one’s thoughts to meander. According to their promotional information sheet, “Fried Okra Band was first formed as a quartet in 2005, and is now a trio. The line-up may not be the typical one in the blues and rock world. But more and more people have already given their ‘hats off’ to ‘the trio without the bass’, and the Danish band is starting to get a good reputation all around Scandinavia. On the European continent, they have also taken their music to Latvia and Austria.”
The Fried Okra Band consists of Morten Lunn on vocals, guitar and one-string diddley bow; Thomas Crawfurd on drums, percussion, mandola, mandolin and background vocals; and Thomas Foldberg on guitar.
Track 01: “Flatland Groove” – The opening guitar intro possesses an effect that makes it sound “strung out”, as if Morten Lunn’s shredder had ingested too much caffeine and cigarettes. “The call of the continent always got me down,” he says. “Mountains were freezing – these lakes would be drowned.” These lyrics would be great at a poetry slam, but not in a beer hall.
Back Into the River may be esoteric blues, but they will float some fans’ boats!