Altered Five Blues Band – Ten Thousand Watts
Blind Pig Records BPCD 5172
12 songs – 43 minutes
Fronted by big-voiced Jeff “J.T.” Taylor, the Altered Five Blues Band has been taking the chill out of cold nights in the upper Midwest for the past 17 years, delivering a supercharged brand of blues that flows like a river as it combines wit, grit and a whole lot of funk guaranteed to keep audiences on the dance floor.
A five-piece unit based out of Milwaukee, Wis., they recruited Grammy-winning producer Tom Hambridge for this CD, the fifth in their catalog – and their second on the Blind Pig imprint. This one’s almost certain to be the vehicle they finally need to achieve the attention they earned after their most recent previous outing, Charmed & Dangerous, garnered a Blues Music Award nomination in the 2018 emerging artist category.
Altered Five’s brand of beefy blues has captured critics’ interest since Altered Five debuted in 2002. A former Wisconsin Area Music Industry band of the year, their 2014 release, Cry Mercy, was nominated for a Blues Blast Music Award and climbed as high as No. 3 in iTunes blues store sales, captured the International Blues Challenge honor for best self-produced CD, and one of its songs, “Find My Wings,” was a finalist in the International Songwriting Competition.
Taylor handles all of the vocals here, backed by a skintight lineup that includes searing guitar from Jeff Schroedl, powerful keyboards from Raymond Tevich and rock-solid rhythm from bassist Mark Solveson and percussionist Alan Arbor. They’re augmented by Milwaukee favorite Steve Cohen, who sits in on harp for two cuts.
Captured at Ocean Way Studios in Nashville with addition recording at Music City’s The Switchyard and Santa’s Workshop in Wauwatosa, Wis., this all-original 12-tune set is chockful of clever lyrics and fires out of the gate with “Right On, Right On,” a rapid-fire boogie built atop driving guitar riffs as J.T. entices the listener to join in on the band’s fun, describing the crowd as “feeling single, seeing double” and adding: “You’ll find ladies lookin’ for trouble.”
The heat continues with “Too Mad to Make Up,” which finds the singer regretting his rowdy ways as his lady heads for the door, while the title tune that follows, “Ten Thousand Watts.” The tempo slows slightly for a new, electrically charged spin on the traditional blues boast about one’s sexual prowess.
The boisterous “Mischief Man” is up next. Delivered atop a percussive rhythm, it’s an unrepentant admission — and advice to others — not to be like the singer who’s definitely no saint. “Great Minds Drink Alike” is an unlikely, soulful love song shuffle that features Tevich’s organ and claims common ground despite poverty because of a common love for booze.
Schroedl shines on “Don’t Rock My Blues,” a sentimental ballad accompanied by B.B. King-style guitar licks that seeks solitude in a world of trouble, before the funk kicks in with the New Orleans-flavored, piano-propelled description of a Cajun queen, “Sweet Marie.” The intensity remains, but the texture changes for the burning ballad “Dollars & Demons,” an admission that the singer’s hit rock bottom after finding it impossible to resist temptation.
“I Hate to Leave You (with a 6-Pack in the Fridge)” announces Taylor’s departure from a cheating woman atop a medium-paced shuffle before he celebrates his freedom with the funky “Let Me Do the Wrong Thing” before warning his ex that she’s going to walk away with “Half of Nothing” and 50 percent of their debt. The swan song, “Let Me Be Gone,” drives home the finality of the separation.
Available through Amazon, iTunes and Spotify, Ten Thousand Watts delivers for anyone looking to amp up the action on a chilly night. Altered Five is definitely a band on the rise.