LIVE DOWN UNDERGROUND Matty T Wall (Hipster Dumpster Records) *****
Here is some brawny blues rock guitar to rip your head clean off. As much as I’ve enjoyed previous efforts from this Australian guitarist, Live Down Underground packs a wallop only hinted at by his studio albums. Matty T. Wall is an extraordinary and fearless guitar player, and the only word I can come up with to describe LDU is “exciting”.
Live Down Underground sounds like it was recorded in a small club but man, you can almost hear the walls sweat. The give and take between artist and audience in an intimate venue like that is, I think, more pronounced and profound. The trio includes Matty on guitar and vocals, Leigh Miller on bass and Ric Whittle on drums, and they very nearly burn the place to the ground. Matty T Wall has an impressive track record leading up to this; 7 nominations in the Independent Blues Awards, a Western Australian Music Award win and 3 back-to-back #1 Australian blues albums. On the other side of the ocean, you say? That may be, but the storm he and his band are raising is surely stretching across the planet.
His original stuff is great, but I like what Wall does when he picks songs to cover too. His version of Robert Johnson’s Crossroads on the Transpacific Blues Vol.1 album is definitive, and the band’s lengthy take on the Hendrix classic Voodoo Chile here is like a jazz excursion mixed with elements of Black Sabbath’s Heaven & Hell; intoxicating, mesmerizing and unforgettable. No wonder Walter Trout says “I’ve been aware of Matty for awhile now and have been a big fan”, and Eric Gales notes that “I’m sure everyone will love this- the guy is a picker.”
When all is said and done, Live Down Underground packs serious heat. Matty pays respect to the roots of the blues’ historical musical forms while introducing classic rock and blues elements with his trademark balls to the wall/ take no prisoners style. This disc is 9 tracks and by the time you’re done you’ll know who Matty T Wall is, musically speaking. LDU climaxes with a guitar freak-out called Sophia’s Strut that feels like the blues equivalent of Van Halen’s Eruption, then the band cools us off with the delicate instrumental Smile to close out the disc. Live Down Underground is stunning- there’s just no other way to put it.
HOT TRACKS: Broken Heart Tattoo, Voodoo Chile, Smile
WHEN YOU CALL Matt Lomeo (independent) *** ¾
This is the debut album for this singer/ harp player from upstate New York who now calls Los Angeles home. I wouldn’t say When You Call is blues, not strictly, but this IS blues-based. You’ll hear blues, country and jazz with an undercurrent of Memphis soul. There are times when this feels like an old Colin James record, and that’s pretty cool.
Lomeo got his first harmonica at the age of 9, soon began singing and playing in bands with his older brother Adam, and was the youngest artist to be invited to perform at Woodstock 99 at the age of 10. He’s a wonderfully expressive vocalist who counts Sinatra, Elvis, Marvin Gaye and Johnnie Taylor as influences; as for the harmonica, he cites Junior Wells and George “Harmonica” Smith. When You Call was produced by Grammy-nominee Terry Wilson, and the band behind Matt includes veterans of Eric Burdon’s and JJ Cale’s bands, which explains the feel of a languid number like Outside Of A Song.
In his adopted hometown of LA, Matt hosts the Tuesday night jam at Ireland’s 32 Pub, one of the premiere Americana hangouts in southern California; if I ever find myself back in Los Angeles I’ll have to check it out. As a singer Lomeo’s blues influences definitely make themselves known, but there’s too much going on here to call it a ‘blues’ album. It seems that when inspiration hits genre is one of the least important elements in Matt’s songwriting. I’m not familiar with most of the musicians on this album, though I have noted keyboard player Kevin McKendree in reviews of other artists’ work. The musicianship is tasty- tight, yet loose enough to leave room for some improvisation, which makes this a fun record to listen to.
Along with the musical elements already mentioned, I have the feeling that if we flipped through Matt Lomeo’s record collection we’d also find a healthy amount of Motown soul. Listen to Accepting Applications and tell me I’m wrong… you can’t. Blues In The South Review mentions that track as “a very pleasant toe-tapping change of pace”, calling it “a Northern soul mover”. When You Call is VERY decent company.
HOT TRACKS: Unsentimental you, She Was The Best, Van Nuys Blues
WHO IS HE? Dylan Triplett (VizzTone)*****
What a voice! Who Is He? Maybe the right question to ask as this is the 21 year old singer’s debut album. Though I currently have this filed with my blues stuff, Triplett is all about the soul. His voice compares to Marvin Gaye and the grooves here feel like classic Curtis Mayfield.
Triplett has been singing since the age of 9, is blessed with a 4 & ½ octave range and is deft beyond his 21 years at blending R&B, jazz and blues into a rich and soul stirring wave of healing music. He began his professional career at the age of 15, and with his father and an uncle both being seasoned jazz musicians, it’s only natural that he would want to follow in their footsteps. It’s also worth noting that he comes from St. Louis, the city that gave us Chuck Berry, Little Milton, Tina Turner and Miles Davis. All of those performers were noted for their soulful musicianship, and there is no doubt that future music writers will list Dylan Triplett along with them when mentioning that city’s music scene.
Grammy winning bassist and producer Larry Fulcher assembled a startlingly talented team for this project, starting with guitarist (and head of Jazz Studies at Kansas State U) Dr. Wayne Goins. Other musicians on Who Is He?; Christone “Kingfish” Ingram (check THAT dude out!), Johnny Lee Schell, Sean McDonald and more. The result is a mature and smoothly engaging set of songs; some written or co-written by Triplett and Fulcher, plus some real gems by Bill Withers, Marvin Gaye, and the Miles Davis classic All Blues to finish off the disc. This is not unlike Kingfish’s self-titled 2019 debut in that it’s hard to wrap your head around such an accomplished debut from such a young artist. Wow.
Bluesy soul or soulful blues, it doesn’t matter how you describe Who Is He? Production my Fulcher and Goin is rich and smooth but not artificial, and listening to the masterful musicians involved in these sessions swing, move and groove away is a real treat. Dylan’s voice is rich and (dare I say it again) soulful, and I like that he doesn’t waste time showing off his full vocal range. He can feel what the songs need to get across and that’s what he gives them; exactly what they need, whether he’s wrapping himself around a ballad or letting it all hang out on a gritty blues like Feels Good Doin’ Bad. This is an excellent disc, debut or otherwise.
HOT TRACKS: Barnyard Blues, Junkyard Dog, That’s The Way Love Is, All Blues
THE VEIL OF SHADOWS Hatriot (Massacre Records) *** ½
Well fuck, better strap down the breakables and put the dog out in the backyard, Hatriot has just come storming back with their 4th album. The Vale Of Shadows is a brutal musical assault, an intense thrash metal opus that neither asks for nor gives any quarter.
Putting this on reminds of a time, years ago, when I first heard Cannibal Corpse on an old Much Music program called The Pepsi Power Hour. I was watching with my oldest son Richard and said to him “I really like the music, but I can’t get past the Cookie Monster vocals.” The lyrical subject matters at hand are hardly surprising for the genre; pent up aggression, The Black Plague, serial killers, a dark and disturbing world, and even personal growth. If your ears aren’t tuned into Cody Souza’s type of vocalizing- that death metal screaming and howling (and mine aren’t)- it can be difficult to pick up on what they’re on about… good thing the record company was thoughtful enough to include a summary with the album download.
I’ve never been a fan of blast-beat drumming but there is something about this batch of songs that feels like classic metal, which plays directly into my wheelhouse. Most times when I get an album like The Veil Of Shadows I put on the first track and decide before it’s even half over that it isn’t for me, but for some reason I locked in with this one and went along for the ride. Though obviously quite different vocally, it kind of reminds me of what Judas Priest was trying to do on Jugulator with Tim “Ripper” Owens at the mic. Even at my advanced age there’s something about the melodically aggressive musicianship that speaks to me on a deeper level.
The write-up I received with The Veil Of Shadows says Hatriot “changed their writing style and added a more modern production to their new album, also including more death metal, hardcore and metal core influences”, and I suppose it would take a more well-tuned ear to judge that than mine. Vocals aside, what really draws me to this disc is the brutal precision of the playing and the attitude. Is this a new beginning for me as a music fan? Hard to say… but I’m digging this.
HOT TRACKS: The Hate Inside, Clemency Denied, Murderous Tranquility