7 songs – 26 minutes
Boston-based Bees Deluxe play what they describe as “acid-blues” and they may be right. From the evidence of A Can Of Bees, it certainly isn’t traditional blues and it isn’t easy to categorise it within any other genre either. What can be said about it, however, is that it is modern music with a big chunk of blues at its core, which is played with energy and no little virtuosity. It is also challenging, different and highly entertaining.
The album is not long – clocking in at only 26 minutes – but the band pack a lot of music into seven short songs. Four of the tracks are instrumentals, allowing the band, which comprises Conrad Warre on guitar and vocals, Carol Band on keyboards, Allyn Dorr on bass and drummer Patrick Sanders to demonstrate their not insignificant chops. Warre himself wrote four tracks, and the band also covers “Mercy Mercy Mercy”, Tinsley Ellis’ “A Quitter Never Wins” and Etta James’ “Damn Your Eyes”.
Along with the blues, a multitude of other influences are on display in A Can Of Bees. Cannonball Adderly’s “Mercy Mercy Mercy” starts with a melodic, cleanly-picked guitar part that could have been taken straight from a 1960s Stax recording session. “Zoe’s Chromatic Blues” is an upbeat jazz-rock workout, with more emphasis on the chromatic than on the blues (and great Hammond B3 playing from guest Bruce Mattson). “Letter From Jail” is a mid-paced rocker that hints at Eric Clapton’s mid-80s output with its compressed drum sound and heavily chorused guitar (although it is a significantly better song than most of Slowhand’s turgid work from that period). “Roll Over Stockhausen” (brilliant title, by the way) really has little to do with either Chuck Berry or the late, modern German composer but is another fast-paced jazz-rock track, which sounds like what might happen if Freddie King took a lot of acid then wrote a song with Pat Metheny and asked a strung-out Stevie Ray Vaughan to take a solo. Dorr also takes a fine bass solo on this track. The slower “Damn Your Eyes” is played as a blues-rock song that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Dire Straits album, albeit with a Hendrixian wah-wah guitar solo. By contrast, “I’m A Corpse Part 2” is reminiscent of Jeff Beck’s Blow By Blow/Wired period, complete with a madly overdriven slide guitar melody that floats in and out of the broader melody.
Warre’s songs are well-constructed, with vocal melodies that often take unexpected twists, aided and abetted by some intriguing lyrics. In “Letter From Jail”, he dryly notes that “This is a letter from jail. And I send it to you. And every letter begins with “Each day is the same”.”
Demonstrating a both a wry sense of humour and a novel understanding of the laws of copyright, the CD cover contains a warning that unauthorized copying “will result in being punished by our sticking burnt matchsticks in your banana.” This irreverent, no holds barred approach is extended to the music on A Can Of Bees. You are strongly advised against unauthorised copying of the album. If your tastes extend towards the acid-rock end of the modern blues and jazz spectrum, however, you will find a lot to enjoy in this release.