15 songs – 57 minutes
Fatter Than Ever is Fathead’s 10th release and the band continues to mine the same rich seam of blues-based modern electric roots music as on their previous efforts. Actually released in July 2014, the album has already spent several months in the Blues and Roots album charts. If you haven’t heard it yet, however, you are missing out on a treat.
Led by Al Lerman (harp, saxophone and resonator guitar), Fathead benefits from the solidly swinging rhythm section of Bucky Berger on drums and bassist Bob “Omar” Tunnoch, and marks the debut of new guitarist Papa John King (who previously spent 20 years with the legendary Long John Baldry). Lerman and Tunnoch both contribute lead vocals to one song each, but the majority of tracks are sung by John Mays, with his distinctive gospel-inflected voice. The band plays with the easy confidence of top drawer musicians at the top of their game. Lerman in particular adds a rainbow of colour with his lyrical harmonica and horn playing.
Although the blues are a key element to Fatter Than Ever, this isn’t a straight-ahead traditional blues album. “My Brother” has a mid-70s Doobie Brothers feel, in the driving mid-pace, the lyrical content and the vocal harmonies. Likewise, the acoustic ballad of “Life Goes On” would not sound out of place on a classic rock radio station. There is also the funk of “Cost To Boogie”, the soul of “Twenty Second Chances”, the flat-out rock of “When Did You Ever?” and even a Louis Jordan-esque “Shoot That Rooster”, which features guest musician Lance Anderson on piano.
All 15 tracks were written by Lerman or Tunnoch, who both have a knack for combining a clever, intelligent lyric with a memorable melody. On the Louisiana-styled stomp of “Better Off Taking Chances, we are advised that “Standing at the bottom, looking at the top. If it don’t work out, you‘re gonna need a mop to clean up that mess. You know it’s anybody’s guess if you’re gonna make it, or you’re gonna fall…. If you want my advice, ain’t no need to think it twice, for you might as well shoot for your dreams. Make your bucket list, and you just might get your wish but you never really know until you try….”
The closing track, “I Don’t Want To Leave The Party”, is an addictive toe-tapping Texas-style shuffle that almost obliges the listener to get up and dance. It’s a great way to finish the album. When Mays sings (with a neat nod to the Floyd Dixon classic) “I don’t want to leave the party, it’s too much fun in here, so hey, bartender, pour me one more beer”, he might well be talking about the album itself. It is one of those albums where you want to start it again as soon as the final song ends.
With two Juno awards (Canada’s Grammy) and a slew of music industry awards and nominations, Fathead have been seen as one of Canada’s top blues/roots acts pretty much since their formation in 1992. Fatter Than Ever will add more lustre to an already glowing reputation.