Travellin’ Brothers – 13th Avenue South | Album Review

Travellin’ Brothers – 13th Avenue South    

Magnolia Records

CD: 10 Songs, 43:39 Minutes

Styles: Jazz-and-Soul-Influenced Blues, 1950s-Style Blues, Ensemble Blues   

13th Avenue South, the eighth release from Bilbao’s Travellin’ Brothers, contains the perfect music for ringing in the New Year. Its jazzy, peppy ‘50s style will get revelers on the dance floor in no time, and its overall atmosphere is one of celebration. From the opener with a Bo Diddley beat, to a gospel tune smack in the middle, to the lyrical aftermath of Peggy Sue Got Married, this CD is a forty-three-minute party. Some blues fans may want less glitter and more grit, but if so, they should pop an album from one of the old masters in their stereo instead. Without a doubt, front man Jon Careaga and company offer the best of good times. Featuring nine original tracks and one cover (“Last Fair Deal Going Down”), the Travellin’ Brothers’ latest is luscious.

The band has earned several notches in their blues/jazz championship belt, including a victory in the 2015 European Blues Challenge for Best European Band, and a slot as a finalist in the 2015 International Blues Challenge. They’ve also shared the stage with such legends as Buddy Guy, Koko Taylor, Canned Heat and Ike Turner. In their continuous desire for improvement and continuous growth, they decided to bet heavily on this recording, armed with great compositions and a state of unbeatable form. After their last two-year tour and 130 concerts in 15 countries, they traveled in November of 2017 to Nashville, known as Music City, ready to record the best record of their career.

Complementing lead vocalist Jon Careaga are Aitor Cañibano on electric, acoustic and lead guitars; Eneko Cañibano on electric and upright bass; Isi Redondo on drums, washboard and percussion; Alain Sancho on soprano, alto, tenor and baritone sax, and Mikel Azpiroz on piano, Hammond M3, Wurlitzer and vibraphone. Guest stars include Earl Thomas and Alex Schultz on lead vocals and lead guitar, respectively. Other featured musicians are Etta Britt on backing vocals; Steve Conn on accordion; Jamison Sevits on trumpet and tuba; Josh Scalf on trombone; and Brad Jones on harp.

It’s nigh-impossible to pick the three best songs from the Brothers, but here goes everything.

Track 01: “The Spur” – What’s a spur used for? To urge a horse (and, metaphorically, a person) to giddy up and go. One might even want to do the Hand Jive during Numero Uno. The lyrics are a stream-of-consciousness hodgepodge from a traveling troupe: “Sax master, let’s have a last, just a quick one very fast. Last bar to hotel door; downstairs it started to pour…Sounds like a plan to me, my friend. I’ll be your sideman in your dyslexic nuffy band.” ‘Nuff said, eh?

Track 02: “A Better Day” – Gorgeous harmonies warm the soul like rays of sunshine on this loping, easygoing number. Earl Thomas takes the lead on vocals here, and Jamison Sevits plays terrific trumpet and tuba. This song’s definitely in keeping with the New Year theme, because all of us want to say, “Well, I’m on my way to a better day.”

Track 06: “Peggy Sue Got Divorced” – There are often two sides to marriage: tying the knot and severing it. Track six showcases a sultry sax intro and gregarious guitar from Alex Schultz. “Life has its ups and downs,” Careaga tells this song’s subject, “and Peggy Sue, you know it better than anyone else. Forget what he said; you are beautiful in so many ways.” So is this ditty.

As 2019 begins, take a tantalizing trip down 13th Avenue South with the Travellin’ Brothers!

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