One of the best things about having a home in Milford Pennsylvania is the sheer number of excellent blues musicians that play the local clubs and bars, and one of very best in the area is Scott Weis, who was recently named “A Great Blues artist of Pennsylvania” by the Blues Hall of Fame. Scott brings soulfulness to a high-energy blues-rock style that led ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibons to call the Scott Weis Band: “One Bad Ass Trio!!”
Along with his band, bassist Todd Lanka and drummer Steve Decker, their latest CD, Almost There, is pretty much – well, there. The album combines a range of different blues styles into a well-presented tour of the Mississippi, from Chicago down to the Delta. This trip through different blues styles is the core of the album, and the variety is great fun.
The CD contains some of Scott’s newest songs, along with a number of classical covers, including two different covers of a song made famous by Johnny Cash: Folsom Prison Blues. The album begins with my personal favorite piece, the title track, Almost There, a melodic and soft ballad reminiscent of much of the work on the previous album Have a Little Faith. Knowing Scott a little bit personally, as a part of my local community in Milford, I think this style reflects on his personality and demeanor –he is soft spoken even though he knows how to rock out. You can just tell that music for him, is spiritual, it’s the thing that keeps him going and it shows in how he plays. This is the kind of music that you hear a lot of when you see the Scott Weis Band in concert. The song Crave later in the album has a similar styling to it.
After its opening track, the album takes a trip down the Mississippi, presenting a range of covers and new songs. A ramped up version of the classic Delta blues shuffle, Roll & Tumble (a 1929 song, which was made famous by Muddy Waters on a Chess records release in 1950) features Scott on harmonica in parallel with his bluesy vocals, and has much the same motion as Muddy’s 1950 recording.
From here, the album goes more in a blues-rock direction, with Cajun Queen, featuring a ton of wah-wah on Scott’s guitar, and melodic drumming by Steve Decker (who once performed with the Talking Heads , as well as with James Cotton).
These Arms of Mine, is s soulful version of the 1962 Otis Redding ballad that was the B-side of his first Stax recording. Scott’s version is a more modern take on the classic, featuring guitar instead of Booker T’s keyboard, giving it a softer, but at the same time, peppier, vibe.
When it comes to the two versions of Folsom Prison, it’s really interesting how a small change in style can give a cover song an entirely new meaning. Scott’s first version of Folsom Prison Blues, the 1955 Johnny Cash classic, still tells the same story of a murderer who laments his fate every time a train goes by the prison. But Scott brings a Chicago style to the other version, pumping it up and making it less sad and lethargic, and a lot more melodic and angry. It features excellent beat drumming as well as a harmonica bridge that has the locomotive –appropriate for the song and for the feel of Chicago blues.
As I have already mentioned, this is an album of different styles. Crave, has a definite Stax feel to it. You might just almost imagine John Shaft walking by as Scott sings. It isn’t totally a Funk track, but it’s definitely reminiscent enough of it to bring back images of large lapels and platform shoes. Promised Land takes the listener to Memphis. The steely-sounding guitar intro just takes you to a hot day sitting out in WC Handy Park listening to bluesmen playing –the sound coming out with static out of beaten-up old amps, or sounds wafting out from storefronts on Beale Street.
The last track on the album is another version of Folsom Prison Blues, called Folsom Guru Mix, and I’m wondering why Scott chose to include it as it just doesn’t seem to “fit.” It would have been better to see the band introduce a cover of a different genre of blues, maybe a simple piece like for example Crossroads, or even a rag-time or boogie-woogie cover to finish off the album, but as a collection, Almost There, presents a satisfying listening experience, certainly one to add to your collection if you are a fan of blues, funk and of course Scott Weis and the Scott Weis Band. This CD, and the others that the Band has made; are excellent addition to any collection.
Listen and Download Songs at Reverb Nation
For more about the Scott Weis Band go to http://scottweisband.com
Thanks to John Dunham , a genuine blues fan, for writing this review, so all I had to do was make some edits! Alison Blackman, Editor in Chief