Altered Five Blues Band – Holler If You Hear Me | Album Review

Altered Five Blues Band – Holler If You Hear Me

Blind Pig Records

13 songs, 50 minutes

The Blues have often spoken to the daily life of communities of people. Many of the most eloquent and effective songwriters sang in direct language speaking to the audience’s shared experiences. Altered Five Blues Band, the hard stomping Milwaukee based Blues Rock band, does this for modern listeners. New record Holler If You Hear Me produced by the avatar of Rock snapped plain spoken Blues Tom Hambridge, if filled with provocations to come together to party and have a good time, tempered by the occasional declarations of love and regret.

The sound of Altered Five Blues Band is a balancing of the deep rooted Gospel tinged baritone rumble of lead singer Jeff Taylor and the post-Stevie Ray Blues Rock flair of guitarist Jeff Schroedl. Schroedl, the primary songwriter, is a fluid guitarist who balances flash with support of the song which is embodied by Taylor’s singular vocal talent. In many ways Schroedl’s clever songwriting and ace guitar is the muse for Taylor’s all encompassing artistic thrust. Taylor’s smooth warm toned voice is as monumental and undeniable as Howlin’ Wolf with the finish and flourish of B.B. King. The band is rounded out by rhythm section Mark Solveson on bass, Raymond Tevich on keys and Alan Arber on drums creating a taut unified Blues Rock sound that can easily morph from single chord stomp to 12 bar medium temp grind to upbeat thump. Special guest Jason Ricci adds facile harmonica to 5 tracks flapping in and out of Schroedl’s guitar lines.

This band’s music, and the blueprint for this record, is well defined by the lead off title track. A sticky guitar line leads the band into a medium fast groove. Taylor joins in low and calm at first then builds the vocal drama to the big “Holla if yah hear me” chorus. Singing of being too busy, overworked and stressed over an ebullient hard bouncing Gospel shuffle, Taylor exudes the emotions he’s singing – exhaustion in isolation to exhilaration in being in community. This melding of clear common man concerns, modern Rocking sensibility and traditional Roots music forms is where Altered Five shine.

The flip side of the coin is song two in the sequence “Guilty of a Good Time.” Starting with just Taylor’s voice and Schroedl electric guitar accompaniment, this full band co-write about gambling, drinking, smoking and partying is kicked off with a calm before the storm effect. The band kicks into a stinky strut for this 16-bar Blues (extra 4 bars at the beginning of the form). Wailing “I ain’t guilty, I ain’t guilty of no crime, baby I’m just guilty of a good time” Taylor inhabits that late night regret in which he ran up a big bar tab and got a “late night tattoo.” This hard partying vignette is what Altered Five also does so well. Connecting to the audience who have all been there: drunk, queasy and a little remorseful but fully alive.

Holler If You Hear Me is a strong cohesive album. Altered Five Blues Band have been at it for 19 years. This their 6th full length, pulls together many influences into a straightforward sound. Undeniably Blues, this music has a pop and crackle that takes its cue from drunken late night regional cover band grinding. But, Altered Five elevates with high end musicianship, clever songwriting and the duel knockout of Taylor’s pipes and Schroedl’s steel. Holler If You Hear Me is a fun loving party with a bit of depth and a lot of joy.

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