Stormcellar opened the fifth annual Crossroads Blues Festival at Lyran Park in Rockford, Illinois on August 23rd and they have just released a brand new blues and roots CD to kick off their second US tour. Hailing from Sydney, Australia, these guys are superb musicians with a great roots sound! Featuring Michael Barry on harp and vocals, Paul Read and Michael Rosenthal on guitars, Theo Wanders on drums and the revolving deputy bass section, this is a band that keeps getting tighter and tighter in their musical approach.
The CD opens to “On The Low Low,” a song with a distinctive attitude. A driving but moderately slow blues that talks about what we do on our own time is only our own business. The tune grinds to the beat and Barry’s harp bleats out in guttural fashion. “Slipping Through These Blues” is what I’d call a somewhat ethereal TV theme song sort of blues. It’s got that smooth sound that chic TV show theme sorts have with a little mean slide guitar and some reggae laid over it. Very cool and very interesting, and then Barry comes in for a harp solo that is like a robust version of “Once Upon a Time In the West” and that haunting Enrico Moriconi sound. I loved it.
Mandolin time comes next with “Queen Above The Oceans.” A short and effective folky tune, it has some pretty mandolin and accordion on top of the fiddle and acoustic guitar. The boys go to the country with guest Jo Fitzgerald adding her vocals harmonies to Mike’s lead on “Put On Your Sunhat Sweet Adeline.” Sweet finger picking and harp work make this a song that you might hear on a Delta or Australian front porch.
“Dirty Work” brings us to a repackaging of a Steely Dan song into a driving blues rock. Using Fagan and Beckers lyrics, the boys add their own music and it really is pretty nicely done. The guitar blazes and the vocals are strident here. “Downward Bound” offers up some traditional, dirty, low down driving blues licks. The harp and guitar are sweet as Barry guts out the vocals and deliver s great song that moves along and gets you wanting to dance.
In “Cry For You” the band gives us a short, folky number with a stark approach. The acoustic guitar and vocals stand alone and the ballad is offered up quite effectively for our consumption. They follow the stark ballad with a bit more robust ballad called “Twice Shy Girl” which breaks out into a rocking number after about a 90 seconds and then they revert for the end to the more subdued approach. Interesting and cool!
“Travelling Song” features mandolin and has a country twang with vocals and harp. The boys tried t get a live sound in the studio and I think they achieved that quite well. “Give Me Something I Want” is a very bluesy cut where the central theme is, “If you can’t give me something I want, give me something I need.” I don’t think that need much explanation. Stinging guitar work here that blends with the harp, nicely done!
In “Looking Glass” the boys star with harp and drums and build into it. The song is about a female musician who gives up on her beau as she gains fame and the former beau warns her, “Not to move too fast through the other side of the looking glass.” Good slide by Paul Read here and Rosie on the electric guitar also plays into another nice guitar solo that punches its’ way out here. The acoustic “Onward Traveler” is another folk song with just vocal and guitar and the band delivers another moving piece. “The Sun Shines On” Has a haunting harmonica line and a cool set of lyrics. The album ends as they reprise with a slightly expanded version of “Cry For You.”
I liked this CD a lot. It’s cool, slick and fun. It’s not completely blues, adding folk and country to the mix to make a unique and eclectic sound. Stormcellar will intrigue the listener with an ear for good music while giving something for fans of many genres to appreciate in one very well done package.