The Barrett Anderson Band – HypnoBoogie
Whitaker Blues Records
11 tracks; 70 minutes
Barrett Anderson reminisces fondly about his days as a Boston teenager, when local clubs soared with the deep and dark sounds of Mark Sandman and Morphine. Shake that up with the house rocking and partying visage of The J. Geils Band. The blues pulled him in early as well. At the age of 15 he was backing Muddy Waters Band icons Pine Top Perkins and “Steady Rollin’” Bob Margolin. This led to joining up with Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters at the age of 16, and later with The Monster Mike Welch Band. Anderson released two solo albums, All The Way Down in 2007 and The Long Fall in 2012, both of which displayed a raw yet original style of electric blues and a talent for originals and covers. Though it’s easy to pick out influences like Muddy Waters, Magic Sam, and Howlin’ Wolf in much of this early material, the ghost of Mark Sandman is recognizable in songs like “Gone” and “Jinx Blues.” These initial credits didn’t go unacknowledged by Boston blues fans either, as Anderson had won “Blues Artist of the Year” in 2013, topping New England icons Roomful of Blues and James Montgomery.
It all leads up to HypnoBoogie, recorded live at The Fallout Shelter in Norwood, Massachusetts, on Feb. 1, 2020. The band is Barrett Anderson on vocals and guitar, Charlie Mallet on guitar and vocals, Doug MacLeod on drums, and Jamie “Black Cat Bone” Hatch on bass and vocals. Originals from Anderson’s two solo works, as well as a few gripping covers, highlight the evening. “We brought it,” Anderson said of this incredible night. Charlie Mallet said that they gave it everything they had. The music is undoubtedly exciting and electric.
The show opens with a driving “Mona.” Anderson’s rich baritone voice stands out robustly amid the intense twin guitar drive that moves the signature Bo Diddley rhythm along. Piercing guitar chops are all over the fan favorite “Good Man.” In the same groove is the Magic Sam instrumental staple ‘Lookin’ Good.” Anderson displays genuine respect for the original, yet beefs up the guitar flight to the max. “Not Your Baby,” from his sophomore album The Long Fall, is much stronger and funkier in the live setting here. Anderson belts out the chorus, “I’m not your baby,” as backup singers repeat, leading into a hypnotic lead guitar solo that’s heavy on wah-wah. “Emma Lee,” from The Long Fall as well, is a deep, lethargic blues jaunt that seeps with Sandman influence.
A thirteen minute instrumental titled “The Long Fall” is next, and it’s a hypnotic treat. Named after his second solo album, the melodic journey isn’t showoff fancy or technically bloated as some electric guitar instrumentals can be. It’s just incredibly melodic. It’s soft in places, unpretentious and humble, yet most of all the sound is genuine and natural. The guitar tone is as beautiful as the melody itself. I’m sure it was even more mesmerizing in the actual live setting. Following a deep and bluesy slide guitar performance of Son House’s “Grinning In Your Face,” the band gets into another instrumental in “Blind Faith.” More exquisite slide guitar notes, mesmerizing and hypnotic as well. The set eventually closes with a rocking rendition of the J Geils Band staple “House Party.”
Hypnotic and boogie, two words emulsified in to one as a portmanteau, make a lot of sense. HypnoBoogie is evident throughout the album. Much of it is laden with one or the other, and sometimes with both. But it’s kind of a tease, too, a remembrance of what we’ve been deprived of in the Covid era: the exciting live performance. HypnoBoogie makes you want to get back to it, and get back to it quickly. But it’s good enough for now, as it has everything needed for a thrilling live performance: great vocals, excellent instrumentation, and songs that excite in both the blues and rock styles. This is Boston nightclub music at its finest.