Rip Cat Records– RIC 1117
15 songs – 61 minutes
Blue Lunch’s previous release was the compilation album, Blue Lunch Special (reviewed in Blues Blast Magazine’s issue 8-28, 10 July 2014). Their new CD, Above The Fold, shows the band continuing to mine the same rich seam of upbeat, up-town, horn-driven jump blues.
In addition to the core band members of Pete London on harmonica and vocals, Bob Frank on guitar and vocals, Ray DeForest on bass and vocals, Scott Flowers on drums, Mike Sands on piano, Mick Rubin on trumpet, Bob Michael on trombone and Chris Bruge on tenor sax, the album also features the guest talents of Evelyn Wright on vocals, Tim Longfellow on organ and Sammy DeLeone on congas on a couple of tracks. Given that London was a founder member of the band back in 1984 and that many of the others have been on board for several years themselves, there remains an impressively infectious enthusiasm about Blue Lunch.
Bob Frank is an gifted songwriter, with a clever turn of lyrical phrase, capable of penning songs that tread a delicate line between dry humour and gallows desperation, for example on opener “Ain’t Trying To Kill Nobody”. He is also a fine guitarist, turning in several short, punchy, yet melodic solos (his break in the French-flavoured “Woman I Bleed” is particularly nice, meshing nicely with Burge’s sultry saxophone). Frank contributed seven songs to the album. Burge wrote three toe-tapping instrumentals on which the various band members have an opportunity to stretch out and London added two songs of his own, one of which is the harp-driven instrumental, “Katt’n Around With Moe”. The only cover versions are carefully selected to fit in with the band’s style (Andre “Mr Rhythm” Williams’ “Tossin’ & Turnin’ & Burnin’ All Up Inside” and Dave Bartholomew’s “Love No More” are both under-appreciated 1950s gems). The closing track is the traditional gospel song “Good News”, sung a cappella by the band – a striking way to finish the album.
There is also a gospel influence discernable in Evelyn Wright’s backing vocals in “Where Do You Think It’s Going?” but it is clear there is a wide range of influence at play on this album. There is the funk instrumental of “One Fine Day”, with Burge’s sax to the fore; there is the (second) Sonny Boy Williamson-esque “The Long Game” featuring superb harp from London; and there is the T-Bone-like “Everybody’s On The Phone”. The great Mr Walker’s influence is even more evident on “Venita”, a slower track with some gorgeous guitar from Frank.
To add to the overall enjoyment, Above The Fold is also beautifully packaged in a gatefold sleeve, with entertainingly idiosyncratic liner notes from Harlan Ellison.
For a band now in its third decade, Blue Lunch continues to turn out top class jump blues with a twist. If you’re already a fan, you will want to add Above The Fold to your collection. If you’re not yet a fan, a listen to this album will quickly convert you. Very impressive stuff.