Hank Shreve Band – Trouble
Boogie Boss Records
10 songs – 42 minutes
Eugene, Oregon, multi-instrumentalist and singer, Hank Shreve, is primarily known as a stellar harmonica player and fine singer. On his new album, Trouble, he also contributes lap steel, dobro, keys and percussion, as well as drums on three songs and guitar on two. It’s a relatively short album, with the 10 songs lasting less than three-quarters of an hour, but it’s a highly enjoyable slice of modern harmonica-led blues with a hint or two of the swamp blues of Louisiana and a dash of gospel.
Trouble appears to be something of a Shreve family effort. In addition to Hank’s efforts, Bill Shreve plays bass and sings backing vocals (as well as lead vocals on “Pain Called Love”, which he also wrote) in addition to engineering the tracks at Boogie Boss Records in Jasper, OR,, and Laurie Shreve provides backing vocals in addition to the album photography. Hank himself wrote or co-wrote (with Jillian Shreve) five of the album’s tracks and he also arranged “Writer’s Block Blues”. The other musicians on the album are guitarist Ken Luker (who also provides lead vocals on his own “Fly Like A Tiger”) and drummers GT Albright and Tim Seifert. Together, they create a fine gumbo of different moods, from the opening slide driven, hard-driving blues of the title track, the funky “Light Me Up”, the gritty shuffle of Jimmy Rogers’ “Who You Thinkin’ Of” (with a fine guitar solo from Luker) and the blues-rock-pop of “Pain Called Love”.
Shreve sings with a warm, full-throated roar, particularly on the grind of “Cry, Cry, Cry” and his harmonica playing is top class throughout. There are hints of Curtis Salgado in the clarity of his voice and the clear tone of his harp playing. But it isn’t all harmonica by any means. The boogie of James Monroe’s “Writer’s Block Blues” (credited to Monroe on this CD, while Monroe’s own Truth Be Known CD actually lists Shreve as the composer), for example, features some fine lap steel playing, while Luker turns in a series of finely melodic solos throughout the album, and Shreve’s piano solo on “Fly Like A Tiger” is a belter. Under it all, the rhythm section of Bill Shreve plus one of Hank, Albright and Siefert nail each groove.
One particularly appealing aspect of the album is the powerful backing and harmony vocals, which often lend an almost gospel edge to the songs. Whilst particularly obvious on something like the Blind Boys Of Alabama’s “Run On”, the backing vocals also add real punch to tracks like “Trouble” and “Pain Called Love”. Having said that, the set actually ends with the dreamy acoustic instrumental, “Take My Hand”, featuring strummed acoustic guitars, dobro and delicate harmonica – a fine way to end a very enjoyable album.
Shreve’s website really doesn’t provide a huge amount of information about the band, nor does the publicity material circulated with the review CD. His last CD, Loosen Up!, was favorably reviewed in Blues Blast Magazine in January 2016, however, and Trouble gets a similar thumbs up. Well worth investigating.