CD: 10 Songs; 53:12 Minutes
Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues, Blues Rock
Many musical artists start playing as children or teens and continue through adulthood, without a hiatus. However, others, such as Pennsylvania’s Don Hoffman, have Unfinished Business with the blues. Hoffman attended a live show featuring the Chicago band West Side Winders back in 1991. He reveals in his promotional info sheet: “Afterward, as Dan [Peters] was starting to tear down his stage, I approached him and thanked him for awakening the desire in me to play guitar that had laid [sic] dormant for fifteen years. When I got home that night, I picked up my rusty old Telecaster and played it until three o’clock in the morning, and I’ve been hard at it ever since.” Featuring the fluid style of such greats as SRV and Johnny Winter, Don is on his way to becoming a contemporary blues rock star. He proves this on a premier album that will surprise even the most die-hard aficionados of the “bluz”. Never mind the Z in his band’s name – Hoffman’s tunes constitute the real deal on ten original tracks.
Alongside him on his debut release are drummers Pat Allen and Brian Berlanda; bassists Brad VanEtten, Scott “Bone” Ward and Brian Bortz; Karl Frick on Hammond organ; Jansen Kelchner on blues harp; and Jenn McCracken on vocal instrumental track five. Don himself plays guitar as well as performing lead vocals.
His style on the mic is crisp and conversational, although he talk-sings through some passages. Nevertheless, Hoffman possesses some keen writing skills. These, along with his prowess on electric shredder, are displayed to best effect on three songs:
Track 01: “I Remember the Day” – The album’s opening number features a growling riff, in the opening intro, that devotees of SRV will love. “I remember the day I promised my guitar I was going to make it play, someday. I remember the day I promised my guitar I was going to make it say things my way.” All artists start somewhere, even if it’s with as-yet unfulfilled vows. Groove along to Don’s rhythmic guitar refrain and a smooth bass backbeat by Brian Bortz.
Track 07: “Damned if I Do” – Sometimes love’s a dastardly double-bind. If you do one thing, you’re in trouble, but you’re also in trouble if you do the opposite. This is the dilemma our narrator faces: “I want to love you, baby, but you make it so hard. It’s only ‘cause of the love in our hearts that we could make it this far.” Oddly enough, lucky number seven is perfect for a mid-tempo spin around the dance floor with a romantic partner.
Track 10: “Unfinished Business” – The atmospheric title track, running seven minutes and twenty-seven seconds, begins like a killer instrumental a la Joe Walsh’s “The Confessor”. Drummer Pat Allen and bassist Brad VanEtten lend their talents to this aptly confessional tale. Our protagonist hears “whispers of a destination that I don’t yet understand. And all that I keep prayin’ is to feel the master’s hand.”
Got Unfinished Business with the blues? Check Don Hoffman out!