CD: 8 Songs; 64:06 Minutes
Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock and Hard Rock
An old saying goes, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” Here’s a corollary: “One can’t judge a CD by the name of its artist.” A witty case-in-point is Richmond, VA’s blues rock band The Bush League. Usually, “bush league” means “second-rate or “of lesser quality”. However, in terms of their fourth album’s top-notch music, this reviewer Didn’t See This Coming. Another surprise on this release is its in-your-face opener, compared to the rest of the album. Upon hearing “Hearse”, listeners might think they’re in for far more screaming shredder than blues. Indeed, on most of the seven songs afterward, one can hear electric shredding and rapid riffs galore. The difference is that “Hearse” is a thrash-rock extravaganza, whereas the other tracks are contemporary blues. This line may still be too blurry for some fans, but others won’t mind.
According to their website, “The Bush League was founded on a front porch in 2007, not too far outside Richmond, Virginia by dynamic vocalist JohnJason ‘JohnJay’ Cecil and the heartbeat of the band, self-taught bassist Royce Folks…. Taking [a] Hill Country base and drawing upon individual influences of rock, soul, funk and gospel, The Bush League meshes those genres to create their own sound that pays homage to traditional blues with a modern feel. [Much] honing and evolving has begun to pay off, as The Bush League has become a familiar face in Memphis, TN with a member of some iteration of the band having competed in every category of The Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge since 2010.”
The Bush League consists of Johnjay Cecil on lead vocals, bassist Royce Folks, guitarists Michael Burgess and Brad Moss, and drummer Wynton Davis. Together, they give their all on eight songs – six originals and two covers (“Mannish Boy”, which features Pete Turpin on harmonica, and “Tramp”, starring guest vocalist Shelly Thiss). The following three songs stay true to traditional blues, while simultaneously appealing to the genre’s postmodern side:
Track 02: “Show You Off” – From what primordial ooze did the term “trophy wife” emerge? “Put on your red dress. Slide them high heels on your feet. Rub that perfume on your neck, baby, that smells good, that make you smell so sweet.” Its sly rhythm and kicky guitar refrain will get crowds on their feet.
Track 03: “Tramp” – If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is the coveted status of being rich, as this hit by Lowell Fulsom and Jimmy McCracklin demonstrates. “Your cash money don’t mean [dung] to me…You’re a tramp; that’s all I see,” guest vocalist Shelly Thiss declares. The electric guitar solo in the middle of this song is chock-full of frustration and regret.
Track 06: “Frysumfish” – Seafood lovers rejoice! Song number six sizzles especially for y’all. It’s a funky, ‘70’s-inspired boogie that’s sure to be a hit at outdoor festivals. Even if people can’t understand the lyrics, their “fish flippers” will understand how to dance.
Didn’t See This Coming is a surprisingly-good blues rock smorgasbord!