14 songs time-65:57
There are many good things going on in this latest release from the Ottawa, Ontario, Canada based Lucas Haneman Express. Let me count the ways- a refreshing approach to music and lyrics, seamless and tight playing, good dynamics and arrangements, great production values, expressive vocals and an inventive and varied guitar wiz with a plethora of guitar tones in his arsenal. Try saying all that in one breath. Lucas handles the lion’s share of lead vocals, while Megan Laurence contributes background harmony vocals, one lead vocal and a duet with Lucas. Both are top notch compelling singers. Drummer and percussionist Jeff Asselin provides the appropriate beats quite handily, while bassist Martin Newman’s playing is assertive and up front. Various guest artists round out the impressive sounds within. Sundry genres of music show their influences as needed, be it blues, rock, pop, jazz, funk or variations thereof.
The blues meet pop in the gear-shifting “The Verdict”, that starts out fast then kicks into an overdrive rockabilly-like segment. Harmonica courtesy of Monkey Junk’s Steve Marriner along with Lucas’ guitar push this song to its’ limits. The jumpy and upbeat “Give Me Life” showcase the complimenting shadowing vocals of Megan against Lucas’ lead vocal. His informed and commanding guitar breathe life into this one (pun intended). The powerful bass of Martin Newman along with the “clipped” note guitar playing up the funk quotient on “Calling The Blame”. The guitar tone changes up at one point and the drumming is excellent as usual.
A change of pace in a nice slow ballad benefits from Lucas’ moody guitar and the delicate organ work of Jesse Whitely of the 24th Street Wailers on “Waiting At Your Door”. The crew gives a rocking blues finish to Bryan Adams’ “Run To You” via a strong beat, Marriner’s harp and wah-wah guitar. The urgency and yearning vocals imbued in “Take Two” are infectious as the tune slows down then builds to an ending crescendo. Not to forget the super funky bass of Martin Newman.
“Blind Man’s Blues” chugs along with bluesy and intense guitar soloing and Megan’s answer vocal. She steps out for her one and only lead vocal turn on “Firestorm”. She delivers forceful vocals over organ and a heavy guitar assault. Nicely flowing lyrics slow to a moody ending on the catchy “Storybook Love”, as drums-bass -guitar clash into a lovely noise. “Love Shine” finds the “L Man” waxing tenderly about L-O-V-E with the sole accompaniment of his acoustic. A walking bass line props up the intense blues duet between Lucas and Megan on “That’s The Truth”. Gee, this CD just keeps getting better and more surprising by the minute.
Did someone say surprising? Howse about a cover of Steppenwolf’s classic hard rock, psychedelic excursion-“Magic Carpet Ride”? Say What? A noisy guitar morphs into a splendid (yeah I said it) guitar riff. Is there nothing they can’t pull off? They dun dood it on dis one. They even throw in some nifty slide, wah-wah and tom-toms. Our heroes chug on out with chugging guitar (how else would you chug?) on “Working Band”. Jesse Whitely provides more of his organ magic.
All righty then! Truthfully, this one snuck up on me. On first casual listen to first few songs I thought, oh boy, a pop record. Oh silly me, there is WAY more going on here. Craftsmanship is the word I’m looking for and found. All save two songs are band originals. There are a myriad of techniques and sounds at play here. This relatively small group of players has come up with pure gold.