Dr. Z Presents Supersonic Blues Machine
West Of Flushing South Of Frisco
It was almost with a sense of relief when I reached track number five - "Bone Bucket Blues" - on West Of Flushing South Of Frisco (Provogue/Mascot Label Group).
By the time track number eight rolled around - a superb cover of "Ain't No Love (In The Heart Of The City)" - I was downright giddy, to the point of being ecstatic.
This album smokes from beginning to end and is done the way that all hard-charging blues/rock records should be done -- loudly and proudly.
My initial trepidation to listening to the debut disc from Supersonic Blues Machine hinged around a couple of things that I'm usually very wary of -- 'super-groups' and albums featuring a number of 'guest stars.'
Projects from so-called 'super-groups' can either sound like a bunch of musicians all doing their own thing and all going in a million different directions, or they can sound like a bunch of musicians all trying not to step on each other's toes and it ends up being sleepy and boring.
No such problem here.
I mean, I've been a huge fan of Texas guitarist Lance Lopez for many years now -- having even seen him up close and personal on the bandstand a couple of times. And drummer Kenny Aronoff, shoot, he's played behind everyone from John Fogerty to John Mellencamp and B.B. King and beyond. And bass player/producer Fabrizio Grossi's resume also speaks for itself, highlighted by projects involving luminaries such as Billy Gibbons and Steve Lukather.
Thankfully, this trio sounds and plays as if they have been doing this together, forever, and there is not one hint of bashfulness to be found. Lopez rips -- as always -- and Aronoff and Grossi form a damn fine rhythm section and go together better than ham and eggs.
As for the other potential death-knell that can be associated with a project like this -- the use of 'guest stars.' That can sometimes be a sign that the featured focus of the album is not strong enough to stand on its own and requires outside help to get its message across.
Once again, no such problem here.
This cast of 'guest stars' -- the afore-mentioned Rev. Billy F. Gibbons, along with Warren Haynes, Chris Duarte, Walter Trout, Eric Gales and Robben Ford -- all simply add some delicious spices to the gumbo, instead of trying to make up the meat of the meal itself.
Yes, with all the six-string fireworks going on over the course of West Of Flushing South Of Frisco, this is a guitar-lover's dream come true.
But its not just a 'tilt-your-head-back-and-rip-endlessly' record. The songs are all of sturdy construction and are crafted with the kind of care that, frankly, is often missing from such projects as this. There's almost a gospel-like quality to a number of the tunes, even though it's a high-octane kind of gospel. And truthfully, Lopez's vocals have never sounded better. He's a highly under-rated singer. Just check out how he handles the song that the one-and-only Bobby Blue Bland made famous - "Ain't No Love."
Who knows what ultimately lies down the road for Supersonic Blues Machine, and whether West Of Flushing South Of Frisco is simply a one-off, or is the start of a long-term working relationship between Lopez, Aronoff and Grossi.
Either way, it doesn't really matter right now, because West Of Flushing South Of Frisco is a solid contender for Blues/Rock Album of the Year.
Check them out at: www.supersonicblues.com.