CD: 13 Songs, 54:00 Minutes
Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues and Blues Rock
The promotional materials for Israeli sensations the Blues Rebels list one Dov Hammer as its lead vocalist and harmonica player. “Hmm,” said one Rainey Wetnight. “That name sounds familiar. I think I reviewed one of his CD’s for Blues Blast.” Indeed: In August 2015, my overwhelmingly-positive review of Open Road was published. Voodoo Land, the Rebels’ sophomore release, packs even more of a wallop than their debut, with a unique mix of contemporary blues and psychedelic rock. On thirteen original songs, with the final one being a remix of track four, they display energizing musicianship and spot-on songwriting skills. To top everything off, the group reconnected with Blues Hall of Famer Joe Louis Walker, who performs as a special guest star as well as being Voodoo Land’s producer. With his vocals a cross between Huey Lewis and Darius Rucker, Dov Hammer and his fellow Rebels turn up the voltage.
According to their press release, “The Blues Rebels began in 2012 as a one-time friendly jam between two veteran blues artists – guitarist Andy Watts and singer/harmonica player Dov Hammer…The immediate chemistry between the two, and the powerful stage show that resulted, were undeniable. The Blues Rebels soon became one of the hottest blues bands on the Israeli scene, playing with world-class artists such as Joe Louis Walker, Lucky Peterson, and Bernard Allison. The band was also chosen to open for the legendary Johnny Winter, who told [them] how impressed he was by their performance.”
The Blues Rebels consist of lead vocalist and harpist Dov Hammer, guitarist Andy Watts, Amos Springer on bass guitar, and Avi Barak on drums and percussion. Guest musician Matan Ashkenazy performs on keyboards, acoustic guitar, and backing vocals. Joe Louis Walker reigns on lead vocals on track six, and also performs backing vocals, acoustic and electric guitar.
The following three songs should make any blues fan’s “playlist podium,” and earn medal slots.
GOLD: Track 06: “Everybody Loves My Baby” – Short and sweet, Voodoo Land’s number-one hit features blues champion Joe Louis Walker on the mic. The subject of this song is a ‘taken’ woman of whom “everybody wants a piece!” “Cab drivers love her ‘cause she always tips. The waiter’s crazy ‘bout the way she sits. The admiral wants to sink his ship. The lion tamer wants her to snap his whip…” No wonder this song ends with a sardonic, “Oh, yeah. Oy vey…”
SILVER: Track 03: “Good Enough” – “My heart is heavy, my spirit torn. An endless journey ever since I was born. The road is rough, and time takes its toll. Sometimes I wonder who owns my soul. Not satisfied, but it’s good enough for the blues.” Rarely have truer words been spoken, even within this genre. Which one of us is perfectly happy with the way our life has turned out? Hammer’s harmonica howls his resignation to second place in the grand scheme of things, and Andy Watts’ gritty guitar concurs. Purists and aficionados rejoice – this one’s for you.
BRONZE: Track 04: “Well Run Dry” – The original version of “Well Run Dry” is a catchy blues-rock stomp, with great harmony on the refrain: “And I don’t know why I try. Yes, I feel my well has run dry.” Why do the Rebels express these sentiments? “It’s a digital age, and I’m an analog guy,” Dov sings, “so just go with the flow and stop asking why. Every move you make is on file…” Andy Watts takes commanding lead here, with a Latin-style bridge starting at 1:17.
The Israeli “bear,” last name of Hammer, and his fellow Rebels make magic in Voodoo Land!