Brett Littlefair – Footstompin’
Stomp Box Records
12 songs, 40 minutes
The cigar box guitar has become the en vogue instrument. It can add a twang and raw feel to a guitarist’s repertoire. But, not many people solely deploy it. That’s where Australian Brett Littlefair swoops in. On his first full length Footstompin’ Littlefair’s power trio Devil’s Bend bruises and batters the boogie with an appealingly harsh cigar box patina.
Sounding like a raw manic version of ZZ Top and Canned Heat mutated together, Footstompin’ brings a decidedly Rock sensibility to the boogie. Now the informed Blues Blast reader knows the boogie is the syncopated heart of many different forms of Blues. Originating from the genius piano playing of early 20th Century musicians such as Little Brother Montgomery, Roosevelt Sykes, Sunnyland Slim and many others, the boogie is probably most famously made popular and propulsive by the great Blues abstractor John Lee Hooker. Littlefair, in direct lineage from ZZ Top, translates JLH’s boogie into an adrenalized cigar box Rock stomp.
The power trio line up of Dale Williams on bass and Jimmy James on drums and backing vocals are in lock step with Littlefair. With one presumably live cigar box track played with the band and one overdubbed track, both hard panned in the mix, Littlefair does not shoot for guitar god shredding. He instead builds hypnotic grooves with his band and then yowls like a wounded animal over the melee.
Album opener “Dirty Little Town” with a weird Bluetooth device message at the start, stomps hard and sets the tone. “Girl Can Groove” opens with a chromatic tag line that sounds like a spare riff from Metallica’s Kirk Hammett before it breaks into a demented Allman Brothers groove. Really every song on Footstompin’ pummels and grinds in their own way. The arpeggiated mourning of “Speedboat Jesus” stands out as does the chugging jamming of penultimate tune “Indian Pacific Line.”
“Brokenhearted” closes out the set with a stripped down duo performing a lamenting postscript. It starts with Littlefair’s cigar box front and center in the mix, no overdubbed 2nd guitars diluting the emotional performance here. Then drums join in with a low key boom click giving Littlefair plenty of room for rangy playing. After all the hyped up drive of the previous 11 tracks and the feverish speed freakiness of preceding track “Indian Pacific Line,” “Brokenhearted” is an excellent way to wind down the album and leave the listener in a reflective place.
Brett Littlefair has found something with his cigar box guitar magic. Doing the raw Rock Boogie with this unique instrument he is able to make the style his own. Throughout the long lock down of 2020-21, Littlefair built a strong international online audience by performing weekly raucous cigar box livestreams. Now that he and his Devil’s Bend are back in person it’s exciting to think about how this music translates. If you are in Australia, you should check this band out. If Footstompin’ is any indication, this crew burns it down.