CD: 12 songs; 40:54 Minutes
Styles: Garage Rock, Funk-Influenced Rock
Some die-hard genre aficionados, who proudly call themselves purists, claim the blues is like gold: there is only one twenty-four-karat essence, and the rest is amalgamated ore. Others compare it to a house with many rooms, or an ice cream cone with several flavors. When it comes to the Brooklyn duet Slim Wray, and the “Sack Lunch” they’ve brought as their debut album, only the latter group of fans would welcome it under the sprawling ‘musical umbrella’ category known as blues. The former group would call it “garage rock” and/or “funk-influenced rock,” and they’d be right. This duo of Chris Moran (on drums and backing vocals) and Ryan “Howzr” Houser (on lead vocals and guitar) claim The White Stripes, The Black Keys, Nirvana and The Kinks as inspirations, rather than Muddy Waters, for example. On all twelve songs – ten originals and two covers (Van Morrison’s “Gloria” and Gerry Roslie’s “Strychnine”) – the vibe as well as the content is 190-proof rock-and-roll. Is this a bad thing? No. Is it rather ill-suited for an e-zine dedicated to more distinguishable forms of blues and blues rock? Many would say yes.
The story of Slim Wray (accompanied on “Sack Lunch” by co-producer Dan McLoughlin on bass guitar and Parry Adams on backing vocals) is one of dedication. Both Howzr and Chris have been musicians, pranksters, and adrenaline junkies from an early age. They separately made their way to NYC and found each other in the punk and indie rock scene. Their first project together, Ten Pound Strike, produced a few EP’s with legendary producer/engineer Joe Blaney (Ramones, The Clash, The Beastie Boys, Keith Richards, Modest Mouse, and others) while blasting away at now-defunct CBGB and other rock clubs around the Northeast. After a brief hiatus, the duo reunited in 2011 to form another two-man project, combining their raw, stripped-down sound with the ghosts of the past and the attitude for today. Last year they renamed themselves Slim Wray and finished recording “Sack Lunch” live at Vault Recording Studios. Dan McLoughlin, incidentally, is the former bassist of The Push Stars, an American rock band formed in 1996.
On their website, Slim Wray is described as “a bombastic, irreverent rock-and-roll band founded on the back of thunderous drums and gritty, fuzz-fueled guitar riffs”. If ever one needed a clear explanation of what the band is and what type of music they play, this is it. The only time the word “blues” is even mentioned in their context is in a promotional-sheet analysis from Blues Rock Review: “Punk-inspired riffs, distorted rock vocals, blues-ridden, classic rock, or beachy melodies, and instrumentals as tight as those in heavy metal give this small group a big personality.” On their first album, Slim Wray certainly delivers everything promised in this quote. However, fans of more traditional blues will most likely “trade” this “Sack Lunch” in for their favorite type of musical meal.