The Smoke Wagon Blues Band – Live in Hamilton | Album Review

smokewagonbluesbandcdThe Smoke Wagon Blues Band – Live in Hamilton

MAPL, Distributed by Indie Pool

CD: 14 songs; 71:01 Minutes

Styles: Live Traditional Electric and Harmonica Blues

Last year, yours truly reviewed a blues CD by Canadians Corey Lueck and the Smoke Wagon Blues Band, entitled “It Ain’t Easy.” Since then, Lueck has sublimated his name into the general one of the ensemble, who present themselves as simply the Smoke Wagon Blues Band. They produced another album in 2013, Live in Hamilton, which is described below. The title refers to Hamilton, Ontario, where they recorded these sessions at the Stonewalls Music Hall.

As Star Wars fans exult on their favorite holiday, “May the (Force) 4th be with you,” and it certainly was during this live concert. It featured Corey Lueck on vocals and harmonica, guitarist Mike Stubbs, Nick Succi on piano/organ, saxophonist Gordon Aeichele, bassist Jason Colavecchia, and Tibor Lucaks on drums. Out of fourteen tracks, nine are original songs, three are covers, and two are spoken-vocal “intros.” The three hot blues tunes mentioned here are not on “It Ain’t Easy”:

Track 05: “Wrong Side Girl” – “I don’t know right from wrong” is how Lueck describes himself in relation to the diva he’s dating in this danceable 1950’s-style ditty. Mike Stubbs, Jason Colavecchia, and Nick Succi do a dandy job on lead guitar, bass, and piano respectively. Later in the song, listeners will find out this “Girl” has a particular recreational habit that’s now legal in Washington and Colorado.  Nearly everyone in the band, minus the drummer, receives a chance to ‘walk the dog‘, or take the instrumental lead.

Track 06: “I Can’t Change” – After all that boogie-woogie on the previous number, it’s time to slow things down a bit and hold one’s partner close on “I Can’t Change.” It’s a sweet waltz with a nightclub feel, especially when Gordon Aeichele plays a sultry saxophone introduction. “I’ve been told I’m reckless and mean,” explains Lueck, sounding rather like Bruce Springsteen, “but I’ll tell you, honey, I ain’t exactly brainless…I’ve been a fool and a fall-down drunk; it ain’t easy on the inside looking out.” Nevertheless, his feelings for his lover remain the same.

Track 10: “Smoke Wagon Boogie” – This is the perfect selection for a live venue, combining three key ingredients: 1) a fast tempo, 2) lively instrumentation, and 3) a vocal “hook” that requires audience participation. It‘s “RIDE THE TRAIN!” in this case, shouted in all caps by the crowd at Stonewalls Music Hall. As on track five, several members get turns leading the band.

“What could be more honest than a live recording!” says Lueck (pronounced “Luke”). “We feel this recording really captured the essence of the live Smoke Wagon Blues Band experience, as well as the band’s musicianship, soul, humor, honesty and interaction with each other and the crowd.” Their music is the antidote to 21st-century techno trash and pop pabulum. Although they’re from Canada, they certainly know how to play traditional American blues!

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