You just cannot have the Soledad Brothers’ music playing in the background as auditory wallpaper. The band won’t let you. I know what you’re thinking: Hey, it’s blues, the slide guitar’s nice and atmospheric, there’s a beat to be kept and they keep it — let’s just pop it in and forget about it. See, the Cincinnati trio (though they’ve been adopted by Detroit) coughs up the kind of blues music that makes fans of John Goodman scratch their heads and fans of Harry Smith nod in assent. Though there is some ass-shaking goin’ on, it’s ain’t of the Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble variety. This is steeped-in-riverbank-mud, seep-into-your-pores, myth-making blues as practiced by post-modern men who know both of what they speak and of how they want it spoken. It’s the Delta as practiced by unironic, modern urban white folk who know that the Stones have been lurking about in the neighborhood for years.
Head Soledad Johnny Walker’s hypnotizing slide and rhythm/lead guitar and moaning vocal intonation doesn’t so much caress and carry you along as create an atmosphere that keeps you looking over your shoulder. When he speak-sings of himself in the third person, it’s “Who Do You Love” as practiced by a recovering Catholic barfly. Picture Lightnin’ Hopkins in a foul mood. Ben Swank’s drumming is either careening off the tracks with irrepressible energy or is economical enough to overlook. Soledad No. 3, multi-instrumentalist Oliver Henry, colors the scene with bad vibes, spooky tangents and overlooked musical characters loitering in the corner.
Do not take this all in one dose. In fact, if possible wait until after midnight. The Soledad Brothers’ Steal Your Soul and Dare Your Spirit To Move? A bottle, the bottom and the tales that bubble up from there. Boogie, chillun’.
E-mail Chris Handyside at [email protected].