American Blues Artist Group
11 songs – 44 minutes
Guitar slinger Dudley Taft had a plan when he went looking for a new house with space for a recording studio. But he struck gold when he landed a pad in Cincinnati formerly owned by rock superstar Peter Frampton. All he had to do was turn the key and he was ready to go.
An artist who likes to put down songs in one take and make adjustments later, Taft combines blues, rock and grunge as he puts a personal stamp on his high-octane music that comes across with a Delta feel. With his background, he really doesn’t have anything to prove. While still in high school, he formed the band Space Antelope with future Pfish frontman Trey Anastasio.
Taft needed a little help setting up what he now calls Muchmore Studio, and there was a phone in the studio that was dedicated as a connection to a help line. When he needed to use it, he was shocked because it led directly to a conversation with the former owner.
A veteran of the Seattle grunge scene, where he was a member of Sweet Water and Monster Magnet, Taft’s been a member of two of the most important groups on the rock scene, Flaming Lips and Alice In Chains. One of his singles, “Vintage Eyes,” made it as high as No. 10 on rock radio charts. But he’s always maintained at least one foot in the blues.
Skin And Bones, the third disc in Taft’s catalog, came about as a result of three one-take at-home sessions with drummer Jason Patterson and bassist John Kessler with other sessions at Omni Studios in Nashville. Joining the trio are longtime friend and former Stevie Ray Vaughan keyboard player Reese Wynans with a guest appearance from organist Eric Robert and backing vocals from Rachel Williams and Ashley Christensen.
The album consists of ten originals and one cover, and If you didn’t know better, you’d think that the first cut, “Skin And Bones,” was the product of a Hill Country band. It features some flashy slide work and single-note runs atop a steady beat as it delivers lush images of city New Orleans while pleading for help to mend a broken soul. The theme moves up river for “Lonesome Memphis Blues,” where the singer yearns for the return of his woman who “turns blues to rock and roll.”
The subject becomes upbeat with “Ain’t Nothing Gonna Stop Us Now,” a fast shuffle driven by a single-note guitar run and Wynans’ organ before an extended guitar solo. It suggests the listener “release your inner passion…You’re the movie star we all want to know.” Taft puts his own stamp on Johnny Winter’s “Leland Mississippi Blues” before launching into “One Of These Days,” a haunting, minor-key look to the future when the obviously troubled singer will be back up on his feet and back with the woman he loves.
Taft gets plenty of use out of his fuzz pedal on “Fuzzy Dice,” a tip-of-the-hat to Air Force pilots during World War II, when the title object often dangled above the control panel and gauges. It’s delivered with an interesting fingerpicked four-note run and answering rhythm pattern in the style of Lightnin’ Hopkins and Hubert Sumlin, but with grunge overtones. The rocker “Without You” sings about the burning pain the singer feels each day while at a distance from the person he loves, while “Space Cake” alludes to the mythological Greek figure of Sysyphus, the deceitful king who crossed the gods and was condemned to spend eternity pushing a boulder up a mountain, as it deals with frustration of daily living and needing to get away.
“Ain’t About The Money” is a rocker all blues artists can relate to as it speaks of living on the killing floor. It leads into “Coming Home,” a simple statement about what’s really important in life, before a funky blues, “Mojo Woman,” brings the album to a close.
Available through Amazon or direct download from the artist’s website or several online sources, Skin And Bones is direct and powerful. Taft’s a true professional. Despite the one-take nature of the recording process, the end product is clean and crisp. If you like your blues with a rock edge, you’ll find this one both different and appealing.