10 songs – 37 minutes
Bluesitude is the second album from Ohio-based blues-rockers, The Juke Hounds, following on from 2012’s Low Man On The Totem Pole.
Originally formed in 2006, the band comprises Bob Gardner on vocals and guitars, Gerard Dominick on bass, Mark Smallwood on vocals and drums, Jimmy Kormanik on harmonica and Doug Barber on vocals and keyboards. The album also features guest appearances from the horn section of Don Kaser on trombone and horn arrangements, Norman Tischler on saxophone and Michael Rubin on trumpet. On “Choose To Be Young”, Bobby Stocker takes the drum stool.
Kicking off with “I Drive”, which features a riff reminiscent of an updated, angular, more frazzled “Smokestack Lightnin’”, Gardner sings with real venom: “Backseat drivers give me lip, I ain’t going to take their shit, because it’s my life, my way, I drive.” The attitude in both the lyrics and the aggressive attack of the musicians reflects the grit and power that is found throughout Bluesitude. But this is also a band that understands light and shade. When Kormanik steps up for his harmonica solo in “I Drive”, the band slips into a gentler, funky, backing rhythm before Kormanik, Barber and Dominick drop out entirely, leaving Smallwood’s drums and Gardner’s solo guitar. Gardner pulls out a powerfully melodic solo while the musicians re-enter gradually to help build the tension and momentum of an impressive song.
While songs such as “Throwin’ A Good Man Away”, “Best Love” “Choose To Be Young” and “Flood Waters” are solid, traditional electric blues, a wide range of other influences are discernable on Bluesitude. “My Prayer” is a gentle acoustic ballad featuring just Gardner’s guitar and Kormanik’s harp. “Stand Up” has a funked-up edge with a heavy Stax-like soul sound. “Fight” is a heavy blues-rock song. There is however a consistent muscular attitude throughout the album. Even the slower, gentler songs have an “in your face” presence.
The quality of the musicianship is uniformly excellent, with the solos being primarily shared between Gardner and Kormanik, the two even playing in stereo in “Best Love”. When he does get a chance to stretch out, for example on the organ solo in “Throwin’ A Good Man Away”, Barber shows he is no slouch either. And while the lyrics do not break any new ground, subtle surprises abound in the performances, from the key change in “Best Love” to the vocal melodies in a number of the songs that are sufficiently original and unexpected to help lodge the songs in one’s head. Gardner’s contribution to album is a particularly impressive, writing all the songs, except for “Superior Woman” and “Flood Waters”, which he co-wrote with Daryl Rowland.
Like its predecessor album, Bluesitude was produced by The Juke Hounds and Freddy DeMarco and recorded and mixed at DeMarco’s Recording Studio (part of DeMarco’s School of Music) in Hudson, Ohio. The result is a crisp, modern production that provides excellent separation between the instruments. So even on the horn-laden tracks like “Superior Woman” or “Choose To Be Young”, each instrument can be clearly distinguished.
This is a relatively short album, with 10 songs packed into little more than half an hour. But it packs a powerful punch. On the evidence of Bluesitude, The Juke Hounds must be a magnetic presence on stage. While you are waiting for them to come to a town near you, if you like your blues played with attitude and edge, with a hint or two of soul and rock, you should check out this album.