CD: 14 Songs; 55:04 Minutes
Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, Contemporary Hard Blues-Rock
The “dog days” of summer are upon us, and what better way to spend them than on the Open Road? Blues die-hards, if you can’t afford an overseas vacation, why not check out the Blues Rebels from Israel? According to their promotional info sheet, “After two years of burning up stages with their incendiary live show, the Rebels began work on [this,] their first album, a compilation of fourteen original songs by Dov Hammer and Andy Watts. The band set up in the studio at Kibbutz Ma’abarot and tore through the songs in three days, capturing the live energy and passion of their infamous live show…. The rhythm section is funky and in the pocket, with a groove that never quits.”
The previous sentence is definitely true. Fans of hard blues-rock and electric blues rock will crave their intense energy and high-octane instrumentation. Those who adhere to traditional blues, however, might be disappointed. Also, Open Road demonstrates the challenges of a debut band and album. Watts’ guitar chords lie in a limited range of low notes – perfect for growling and sounding edgy, but not so impressive on solos. Dov Hammer’s harmonica, however, roars and charges like his first name: “bear” in Hebrew. Overall, they might be called a grittier version of Blues Traveler, but Dov’s vocals are reminiscent of Darius Rucker. The good news about this CD is that it’s raw and unpolished, (which might also be the bad news, depending on one’s particular taste).
As for their songwriting skills, they would rate a “B” in any Battle of the Bands competition. To their immense credit, they avoid the constant repetition of “baby”, although they could have used more variety in songs such as “Secret Smile” (track ten) and “Trying to Get Paid” (track thirteen). They’re at their best when they’re introspective, as on “Looking In” (track nine).
With Hammer on vocals/harmonica, and Watts on guitars, are Amos Springer on bass, Avi Barak on drums/percussion, and Makan Ashkenazy performing on Fender Rhodes piano during “Open Road”. The following song explains why the blues has often been called the devil’s music:
Track 04: “Devil By My Side” – “I was born on the eve of the seventh day. The first song they taught me how to sing was a prayer. They tried to keep me in line, but I would not stay. Well, you know how the road to hell is paved.” Our narrator is racing against time, as we all are, but with a diabolical running partner. This mid-tempo ballad with a saucy harmonica intro and relentless backbeat will get people dancing, whether they’re on the “Stairway to Heaven” or not.
Track 07: “Reason to Live” – For a change of pace, optimism shines through on lucky number seven. Nearly every blues band does their own take on a train song, with its quintessential chugga-chugga rhythm included. Dov’s best singing is featured here, keeping his “demons” and dark thoughts at bay.
With more exposure at home and abroad, the Blues Rebels will conquer the Open Road!