Jason Ricci & The Bad Kind
Approved By Snakes
Some works of art are easily sorted, labeled and stuck into categories, while others seem to defy explanation and refuse to be pigeon-holed, no matter how hard one tries.
Approved By Snakes (EllerSoul Records), the newest album from harmonica virtuoso Jason 'Moon Cat' Ricci and his red-hot combo, The Bad Kind, most certainly fits into the latter category.
Sure, it's the blues … but it's the blues played like you rarely hear them played these days.
They're dirty, they're gritty, they're earthy, they're super-funky, they hit you straight in the gut and then stomp all over your face.
All in a good way, of course.
In spots, Approved By Snakes is as heavy as vintage Black Sabbath; it's as Hill Country as R.L. Burnside; it's as punk as The Misfits; it's as dark as Tom Waits; and it's as Creole as Dr. John.
Ricci has long been known as a harp player's harp player and is one of the brightest and most innovative musicians currently on the scene.
He's capable of unleashing true magic and invoking deep emotions when the reed hits his mouth and that continues in spades on Approved By Snakes.
But whereas his last group, New Blood, mined their best work in a kind of jazz-fusion sort of way (even getting downright psychedelic at times), The Bad Kind operates in a more jamband-infused way and their music is peppered with lots and lots of New Orleans soul.
That's not surprising, considering that Crescent City legends Sammy Hotchkiss and Jon Lisi handles the guitar chores for The Bad Kind. Both are exceptionally gifted musicians and they blend seamlessly with Ricci's over-the-top vision of the blues. Andy Kurz lays down the bass, with Adam 'A-Bomb' Baumol on percussion. More than just simple rhythm keepers, Kurz and Baumol master their instruments and play more in a lead vein than just as background accompaniment.
That dynamic of Ricci's street-wise punk blues influences combined with The Bad Kind's Orleans' gumbo makes for some exceptional music, which is what Approved By Snakes is all about.
It should be noted, however, that the subject matter on Approved By Snakes is not for the timid, nor for the faint of heart. The Grammy Award-winning Ricci has long fought his own personal demons (including substance abuse and encounters with authority that has led to incarceration) through the music that he creates and that theme is once again woven throughout his latest album.
The lead-off track, "My True Love Is A Dope Whore" explores the seedier side of New Orleans and a cast of its street denizens in jarring detail. "Something Just Arrived" in many ways parallels the Velvet Underground's "Waiting For The Man," like a spiritual cousin.
But the album reaches an apex on "Broken Toy," which offers a harrowing glimpse of what life must look like through Ricci's very-own eyes.
This process seems to be cathartic for Ricci who has a true knack for baring his soul for the entire world to witness, no matter how painful that must be at times.
And after all, isn't that the true meaning behind blues music?
Not to be worried, though, the heavier material on the album is balanced nicely by cuts like "I'm Too Strong For You," which features some light-hearted boasting by Ricci about his super-bad musical prowess.
Approved By Snakes is highly recommended for those looking to leave their comfort zone and embark on a truly-inspiring musical journey, shepherded along by Jason Ricci & The Bad Kind.
Check them out at: www.mooncat.org.