Altered Five Blues Band’s fourth release Charmed and Dangerous is the first release of an album on the reinvigorated Blind Pig Record label as part of The Orchard organization. Their third release Cryin’ Mercy was nominated as Contemporary Blues Album in the 2015 Blues Blast Awards and the band was also nominated for the Sean Costello Rising Star Award. Additionally Cryin’ Mercy was chosen as the International Blues Challenge Best Self Produced Album for 2015 all because of their fantastic talents and the production by Tom Hambridge. This album follows closely on the heels of that release, with tight production and all new songs.
The band is Jeff Taylor on vocals, Jeff Schroedl on guitar, Mark Solveson on bass, Raymond Tevich on keys and Hambridge on drums. The production is what I’d expect from Hambridge, with songs blending blues and rock with the guitar sound often leaning more towards rock than blues. The band is at ease with each other and they are always tight and together. Steve Cohen appears on harp for two cuts and Candice Smith is the backing vocalist on three other cuts.
The CD opens to the title track. A solid intro on guitar and keys sets us up for the vibrant vocals of Jeff Taylor. Taylor’s voice exudes power, emotion and soul. He fronts the band with authority and commands the listeners attention. Schroedl’s guitar solo is long and rocking, taking a big place front and center in this cut. The opener grabs the listener nicely. “Mint Condition” is a bouncing cut with a strident guitar lead and organ filling in right behind. Taylor once again showcases his pipes and impresses the listener with his work.
Next up is “Three Forks,” a cut built on the music of Robert Johnson’s “Cross Road Blues” with new lyrics by Jeff Scroedl. It is written about the place Johnson was purportedly poisoned in 1938. Featuring stinging guitar, big time harp work, and, of course, big time vocals, this is a high energy take on the classic song with huge solos on the harp and guitar. “On My List To Quit” is up next, another song to showcase Taylor’s powerful vocals and Schroedl’s axe work. Taylor bemoans his job, relationships and other “vices” of things on his list to quit. “If Your Heart Went Public” opens to another stinging guitar in an amped up slow blues. Taylor testifies poignantly as Schroedl replies to each vocal line on his guitar. Another big guitar solo is featured here along with a powerful delivery by Taylor.
“Gonna Lose My Lady” takes up the beat and jumps and jives nicely. A short, blues guitar solo and some nice work on the keys are showcased in this energetic cut. A sweet slow blues with guitar and piano intro “Cookin’ In Your Kitchen” where Taylor then takes the lead in this traditional Chicago blues cut. The take things right back up in the hot and swinging “She’s Still Crazy” The harp returns to banter with Taylor and the organ helps drive the song at 100 miles an hour. The guitar takes things out with everyone joining in; really high energy stuff. The tempo takes a 180 with the ballad “Eight Wonder.” Taylor sings lovingly about his woman who is so wonderful she might be the 8th wonder of the work. It’s a stark contrast to the last cut.
“Three Alarm Desire” follows, with Taylor holding back a bit on the verse then letting loose on the choruses. A big guitar solo is once again featured mid stream and then again takes us home. “Small Talk” is next and Taylor and company show a little restraint here to start, then there is a big guitar solo before Taylor returns as he builds things a bit to finish things off with Schroedl’s help. “Rotten” gets into a dirty groove and continues that way as Taylor sings of a relationship where there is something not right and just rotten within. A nice organ solo is offered up for us here, too, along with the two Jeffs going back and forth on vocals and guitar. The CD closes to “Look What You Made Me Do,” another pretty much traditional slower blues. Taylor gives a gutsy vocal performance, Schroedl offers up a more restrained guitar solo, and the band just sounds sweet as they accompany Taylor in this down home and cool cut.
Jeff Taylor’s style is big and no-holds-barred in his approach; he never takes any prisoners as he attacks each song with his powerful vocal work. Schroedl takes the same approach on guitar, blazing a path on each cut with his fretwork. The keyboards are used effectively to balance out the songs and the harp work begs for maybe even more – it was a nice addition.
Charmed and Dangerous is not for the faint of heart – most of the cuts here are big and hot. This is a powerful album.