Steve Krase Band – Just Waitin’
10 songs/40 minutes
Is Honky-Tonk Blues a thing? A sub-genre in which people in the vast expanse of Texas can two-step and hoot-scoot to wailing Blues harmonica and stinging guitar. If it isn’t a thing it is now. Houston harp veteran Steve Krase’s fine new record Just Waitin’ shuffles and moseies while also delivering the real deal Blues. Out of the tragedy of Harvey, Krase has rebuilt his music into a romping feel good hybrid.
Steve Krase is a utilitarian front-man who fits into the pocket instead of flashing and strutting so it makes sense that this record is credited to the Steve Krase Band; it’s a collaborative effort. Bassist, songwriter and producer Rock Romano helps Krase create a clean straightforward sound and is in perfect union with drummer Tamara Williams. Williams and Romano, with James Gilmer adding percussion on a few tracks, keep the music moving and lay down a rock solid flexible foundation for guitarist David Carter and Krase to skitter over. Steve sings with a spoken word simplicity that exudes cool confidence and his harp attack is clean and rhythmic.
The minor key Blues “Nobody Loves Me” is haunting and highlights Steve’s ability to use his talents effectively and tastefully. Krase doesn’t try to push his limited vocal range out of the sweet spot. This is exactly how a talker/shouter like he should deliver a slow Blues. So even though “Nobody Loves Me” would be a wailing vocal workout for someone like Kim Wilson, Krase keeps it conservative expressing resignation and sadness instead of angst and despair. Krase shows the other side of his voice on the shuffling “Just Waitin’ On My Brand New Baby.” Steve takes his time with this mid-tempo Romano original phrasing the lyrics in a cool laid back way. Talking his way through as the patient narrator waiting for his baby who is obviously up to no good; Krase again uses his vocals to perfect effect to communicate simply and convincingly the message of the tune. With guest guitarist Kenan Ozdemir laying down a short but highly potent lead, this song is a highlight. Both tracks are highly effective and super enjoyable because of Krase’s understanding of his gifts and how to best present them.
So how about this Honky-Tonk Blues? Opener “Settin’ The Woods On Fire” is the template. A Hank Williams Sr. vehicle that Jerry Lee Lewis (the king of Honky-Tonk mash-up) covered; this simplistic 2-step is startling and sounds a bit corny at first. Upon a second pass, the listener is unable to sit still as the music plows forward with an old-timey call to get turnt-up. The song sticks with you. There is a maniacal rockabilly pulse. Krase and guitarist Carter keep the energy flaring with rhythmic hypnotic solos that don’t allow the groove to break. The record keeps the Honky Tonkin’ with Hillbilly flair on the Cajun take of “The Ballad of Jed Clampett.” Augmented by Brian Jack on accordion and Mike Vee on rubboard, Krase takes this Beverly Hillbillies theme song down to the bayou. “Blame It All On Love,” another Romano original, jangles with a hop that bounces down the road like Gram Parsons would have. These songs are Country music with Blue shades highlighted.
Steve Krase has been laying his Blues down on record for over a decade. A mainstay on the Houston Blues scene, it is great to hear such joyful and effecting Blues based music coming from post-Harvey Houston. Krase has taken his Blues in a new direction with Just Waitin’, a joyful celebration of life and survival, just like his City, and just what his City needs.