Bad Temper Joe – One Can Wreck It All
CD: 12 Songs, 49 Minutes
Styles: Acoustic Blues, Roots, Ensemble Blues, All Original Songs
Once in a pink super moon (which recently happened), an acoustic album from a foreign blues artist rises and shines super-bright. Not because of slick production values or household-name recognition of the musician, but because of high quality, raw honesty and a dedication to traditional sound. Australian vocal virtuoso Andy “Sugarcane” Collins’ CD’s are superb examples of these. So is One Can Wreck It All, the seventh studio album from a German aficionado dubbed Bad Temper Joe. All of its twelve tracks are originals, seamlessly meshing classic blues style with atmospheric 21st-century overtones. Imagine sitting on your front porch with a hollow-body guitar, strumming old favorites and singing along, while strange radio signals warp and resonate in the air. Could it be an alien invasion? Never fear! This is no War of the Worlds, but a meeting of two worlds: American and German blues.
When it comes to blues in Deutschland, there’s no getting around this grumpy twenty-something. The native press calls him “one of the really important songwriters and guitarists of the German blues scene” (Wasser Prawda) and praises his “rough, powerful vocals […] as well as his excellent fingerpicking” (Bluesnews).
Bad Temper Joe was the only European act to make the finals of the 2020 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee.
Performing along with Bad Temper Joe (vocals, guitars, piano, foot stomping and kettledrum) are Washboard Wolf on washboard, kick drum and percussion; Ian Andrews on vocals and kettledrum; Moritz “Moe” Hermann on vocals and kettledrum; Marcel Rahe on harmonica and vocals, and Alexander Scholten-Luchsen on piano and vocals. (Side note: “Kettledrum” is not an instrument often listed on a blues album, and yours truly is grateful for its inclusion here.)
The CD begins with an autobiographical-sounding ballad (is it or isn’t it?) entitled “The Night Johnny Cash Quit Doing Pills.” Usually, a musical icon kicking the habit is a good thing, but for our narrator, it signals the end of an era: “Tell me, do you remember those nights/We sat by a campfire light/We passed a guitar, came from near and from far/We all wanted to be a rock-and-roll star/But it all lost its thrill the night Johnny Cash quit doing pills.” “Early Morning Blues” is no pepper-upper either, especially for those who don’t get up with the sun. However, it’s mighty catchy, especially Marcel Rahe’s harp. “Hole in my Pocket” boasts spooky slide and other guitars, and “Don’t Mess With a Mule” constitutes a jaunty romp. Later on, “Wishing Well” adds more voodoo, with an intro perfect for long, lonely nights when you need music as a boon companion. Feeling a bit down about a certain virus? “I’ll Never Get Well No More” is a haunting ballad about an impoverished patient comparing his hospital room to a prison – “My bed feels like barbed wire; I’m caught in a double bind.” Sure puts things in perspective.
One Can Wreck It All is a resonant, melodic and more-than-slightly-dark CD. The blues reminds us to love life, no matter how scary it gets. Bad Temper Joe and company do an excellent job of it on their seventh offering. Even if you mourn your lot, hope, like a full moon, is on the horizon.