Lightnin’ Rod and the Thunderbolts – Guilty of the Blues
Memphis Blues Records
CD: 13 Songs; 45:02 Minutes
Styles: Ensemble Blues, Mellow Blues, Blues Rock
What kind of “blues electricity” might one expect to be struck by, courtesy of Kentucky’s Lightnin’ Rod and the Thunderbolts? Blues fans might crave a “shock” of “high-voltage” electric guitar, made even more powerful by an amplifier’s “amps”. Surprisingly, the band’s “current” is warm and low-key as it courses through the “wires” of listeners’ ears. On their third release, they’re Guilty of the Blues. This CD will be a guilty pleasure on long road trips or quiet evenings. According to the band’s promotional information sheet, “Rod’s music has been called ‘Bob Seger meets Eric Clapton at Muddy Waters’ House.’ But, those who try to pigeon-hole his music will be left scratching their heads. Always a blues rocker at heart, his music also has shades of soul, Motown, gospel and acoustic influences.” He won both the Grindle Award and Gold Artist Award for his 2008 release, “After the Storm.”
Joining Lightnin’ Rod Wilson on vocals, guitars, six string banjo, and percussion are bassists Calvin Johnson, and Shannon Link; drummer/additional percussionist Roy Edmiston; Bob Hopps on keyboards and harmonica; Joe Kleykamp on saxophone and horn arrangements; trombonist John Pope; trumpet player John Francis; William McNeil on violin; and additional vocalists Tiffany Wilson Bays and Jennifer Adkinson Doser on harmony. The following three songs, out of twelve total originals, capture the easily-flowing essence of the Lightning Bolts most clearly:
Track 06: “Livin’ in a Smokescreen” – “They want the power; they’ve got the greed. Don’t care about nothing that the people need…Politicians lie; good people die in a smokescreen.” Swinging track six is a blues rocker exposing the political fog in which we currently stumble. “You own the press; you own the schools – but you don’t even know the Golden Rule,” Rod states of so-called “public servants”. His wah-wah guitar solo coupled with Shannon Link’s perky bassline is terrific.
Track 08: “Midwest Boy” – This is Lightnin’ Rod’s ode to his home region: “You can take the boy from the Midwest, but you can’t take it out of the boy. I mix Detroit-rocking Motown with Chicago, Illinois.” He drops names (Seger, Mitch Ryder, and Buddy Guy, to name a few), and plays decent acoustic guitar. Even though there’s nothing revolutionary about the song, it does sound the most like traditional blues.
Track 12: “Rooster in the Hen House” – The Thunderbolts go all out in this highly-danceable instrumental, as Rod struts his stuff on six-string banjo. It’s not exactly rock, blues, or country, but right in the sweet spot between all three genres. Listen closely for the popular musical refrains from “Shortnin’ Bread” and “Dixie Land”.
The one flaw in this CD is that the Thunderbolts’ music might be too mellow for some – especially for those looking for hair-raising party tunes. However, peruse-ers in a more laid-back mood will surely find themselves Guilty of the Blues!