10 tracks; 45 minutes
Soulstack’s third album carries on the standards set by their previous albums: original material, well played and sung but difficult to pin down in terms of style. This is certainly not a straight blues album but there are some blues references, as there are soul, country, rock and pop. Bands such as The Gin Blossoms come to mind when listening to Soulstack’s music but you can equally discern traces of The Band, Little Feat and some of the soul greats of yesteryear – an intriguing mix! The band is Jon Knight on lead vocals and guitar, Chris Latta on guitar, Mark Wessenger on keys, Darryl ‘Harpo’ Peterson on bass and Tom Bona on drums. They are joined throughout by young keyboard player Matt Weidinger and on one track by Dawn Blythe on percussion. All the musicians contribute backing vocals, Jon and Mark wrote all the material and Jon produced and mastered the album, so this is very high quality music produced ‘in-house’.
Frontman Jon has a voice that suits this music very well, as can be heard immediately on the opening track “Just Don’t Call It The Blues”. The tune opens with a driving beat and some fine keyboard work as clavinet and organ play against the guitars to provide a funky approach. The jaunty “Can’t Take It With You” is a blend of soul vibe and Americana feel with harmonies and a repetitious but catchy chorus of the title, the organ providing the core solo but praise is also due to the piano playing that follows the organist’s every twist and turn. “Little Fire Alive” has a lovely, gentle feel with superb harmonies and appropriate accompaniment to Jon’s great vocal: “Hold on, hold on, you’ve got to keep a little fire alive.” The track closes with the harmony vocals simply accompanied by piano and gentle guitar chords before a striking guitar solo graces the outro. “A Lot Of Good Men” definitely has a soul vibe with churchy organ and a pounding chorus, the sort of track that would work well on mainstream radio (if music of this sort was still programmed there). Brooding bass and hard-working drums open “Poison Headache” before the guitars and keys get to work, Jon singing of “taking every poison I can think of to get you off my mind”. As the song develops the interplay between the two keyboard players is worth listening to closely.
The band drops the pace for the attractive love ballad “Tip Of My Tongue”, Jon’s vocal soaring over some very solid playing and great harmonies from everyone, the bridge having just a hint of reggae under the chiming guitar work, making this one of the standout cuts on the album. “No Man’s Land” is the shortest track, opening with plenty of swirling organ and a grinding rhythm that takes the band towards blues territory, the two guitarists trying to out-muscle the organ without much success until the coda which has definite echoes of the Allman Brothers in the twin guitar work. “Love Thing” has some more good keys and piano work in a song with a definite Americana feel and distinct echoes of The Band to this reviewer’s ears. The solo organ opening to “Real Bad Feeling” soon gives way to a catchy tune with the sort of harmony vocal work that distinguished many of the Eagles’ best efforts. Closing track “Time Don’t Wait” returns to an Americana approach, a slower track with plenty going on musically as the passionate guitars sing out over warm organ and piano accompaniment, all supporting Jon’s world-weary vocal as he tries not to miss a great opportunity in his life.
There is little actual blues in this album but equally there is a great deal to enjoy if your tastes run to music beyond the usual blues frontiers. A thoroughly enjoyable album, recommended to the broad-minded.