13 songs – 56 minutes
West of Flushing South Of Frisco is a curious release. The debut album of blues-rock “supergroup”, Supersonic Blues Machine, it features guest appearances by a litany of blues-rock legends, which at times gives it the feel of a tribute album, rather than a statement of intent by a new band. The band major on their blues influences on their website and in their promotional material and how, in the words of bassist/producer Fabrizio Grossi, “You will feel B.B. King’s presence on stage even though we might be wearing space suits,” but they play music significantly closer to the rock end of the blues-rock spectrum. There is a feeling of displacement when a band claims such empathy and love for the blues, to the extent of even including the word “blues” in the band name, but then releases an album of muscular, modern, guitar-driven classic rock.
Supersonic Blues Machine features the undeniable talents of singer/guitarist Lance Lopez, bassist Fabrizio Grossi and drummer Kenny Aronoff. The combined résumés of the band is incredibly impressive, with different members having worked previously with the likes of Johnny Taylor, Lucky Peterson, Bobby Blue Bland, Steve Vai, Nina Hagen, Glenn Hughes, John Mellencamp and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. And the playing is certainly impressive, with each member displaying rare technical proficiency on their instruments.
The songs are also well-structured and well played, with superb production by Grossi, who also wrote or co-wrote the lion’s share of the tracks, with the sole cover being Bobby Bland’s “Ain’t No Love (In The Heart Of The City)” (which is played closer to the famous Whitesnake cover than Bland’s timeless original) And therein lies the rub. West Of Flushing … is a fine album. It simply isn’t a blues album.
The loping riff of “Bone Bucket Blues” could come from an early Guns & Roses album. “Running Whisky” could be an out-take from ZZ Top’s Eliminator-era (perhaps not surprisingly, given that Billy F. Gibbons co-wrote the track as well as contributing lead vocals and lead guitars). Bad Company would love to have written and released “Remedy”. “Can’t Take It No More” sounds like a cross between early Whitesnake and Alannah Myles.
The guests include the aforementioned Gibbons, as well as Warren Haynes, Chris Duarte, Eric Gales, Walter Trout and Robben Ford. In addition, Serge Simic adds acoustic guitar to some tracks, Garrett Hallbrock adds lap steel, Jimmy “Jimmy Z” Zavala plays harmonica and Sam Lusting contributes Hammond organ. The guitar is very much the lead instrument of choice on this album, however, and all the guests turn in sparkling cameos. Lopez more than holds his own in such august company, often engaging in entertaining duels with his guests – his “battle” with Duarte on “That’s My Way” is a particular highlight.
West Of Flushing South Of Frisco will appeal to fans of Gary Moore, Black Country Communion or even Chickenfoot. If you’re looking for something with more blues than rock, however, you should look elsewhere.