CD: 11 Songs; 45:31 Minutes
Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, Funk-and-Soul-Influenced Blues
“There are no two words in the English language more harmful than ‘good job’.” So says J.K. Simmons, playing band taskmaster Terence Fletcher in the 2014 movie Whiplash. His point is that, in his opinion, these two words are a stopping point for many artists. Those who are satisfied with “good job” don’t often push themselves beyond their previously-established limits, because they’re popular and have “made it”. What they’re missing is the sometimes hair-thin gap between good and magnificent. Pennsylvania’s Jeff Fetterman stands on one side or the other when it comes to his new CD, Bottle Full of Blues. He’s best when pushing his own envelope.
Some songs, like the opener “Paradise”, are good enough to get people grooving, but they won’t make headlines. Others reviewed below, such as “Southbound” and “Wash My Blues Away”, are the hits of the album. On the whole, it’s an electric extravaganza a la the Jeff Healey Band and 38 Special. In fact, Fetterman has been the supporting act for that band, as well as Ana Popovic, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, renowned drummer Tony Coleman, Chris Duarte, and Molly Hatchet.
Alongside Fetterman, as he performs on lead guitar and vocals, are drummer John McGuire, Ralph Reitinger III on bass guitar, Anthony Brown on keyboards, Otis James on harmonica, Judy Kessler on background vocals and percussion, and Amy Shallenberger and Bea Antonelli on backup vocals. The following three tracks are perfect for a blues-rocking good time:
Track 03: “Southbound” – In blues songs, almost no one writes about heading east or north (except to Chicago). They might be traveling west, but they’re almost always “Southbound”. This throw-down boogie contains fantastic harp from Otis James and kicking piano keyboards courtesy of Anthony Brown. The best part of the song, however, is the line, “I can hear the gospel. It’s blowing through the wind. Welcome to the Delta. Welcome home, my friend.”
Track 04: “Bottle Full of Blues” – Alcohol is supposed to drown one’s melancholy mood, but in our narrator’s case, there’s nothing he can do to escape it. “I went to the crossroads to make myself a deal. Now I got these hellhounds – they’re barking up my trail. Scratch says, ‘Son, I was the wrong man to choose, and all you’ve got is a bottle full of blues.’” Gregg Allman would be proud of the wickedly-good intro and guitar solo.
Track 09: “Wash My Blues Away” – Haunting, harmonic background vocals infuse this ballad with the sorrow of lost love. Three sirens by the names of Kessler, Shallenberger and Antonelli ring out with golden voices throughout this mid-tempo ballad. The lyrics may not cover much new ground, but this song’s sadness lies in the fact that so many people have traveled the road of broken dreams. “I never was an angel,” Fetterman says, “but you could never see the light.”
Jeff Fetterman should never settle for “good job”. His Bottle Full of Blues will help bridge the gap between okay and outstanding, satisfactory and sensational. He’s reaching for the stars!