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Sidewalk Caesars

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Reseña de álbum

Three releases in, Scrapomatic's core/founding duo — singer Mike Mattison and guitarist/singer Paul Olsen — finds its elusive groove by refusing to be typecast as a blues band. While blues remains at their core, Mattison and Olsen revel in the nooks, crannies, and extremities. They mix and match styles, even within the same tune, to encompass rustic acoustic folk, country, soul, R&B, swamp, roots rock, gospel, and even a hint of '80s punk-pop. Despite the group's eclectic nature, this is its most focused set yet. As if to assert their independence, Mattison and Olsen have replaced veteran producer John Snyder, who worked on Scrapomatic's first two discs. Mattison and engineer/mixer Jeff Bakos are co-producers here, and they keep the sound raw yet commercially viable. Olsen takes a few lead vocals, most noticeably on his closing ballad, "Good Luck with Your Impossible Dream," but it's Mattison's soulful, malleable rasp that jumps out of the speakers. He can be sweet or salty, mournful or magnanimous, innocent or intense, and he uses his remarkable range, sometimes sliding into falsetto, to express the emotional core of these often lyrically obtuse songs. There are spiritual overtones in the jaunty "The Fire Next Time" and "He Called My Name," but the themes seem to question religion rather than promote it. Drinking is also a recurring motif ("Drink House," "The Old Whiskey Show," "Drunken Spree"), but more in a descriptive sense. Mattison calls in boss Derek Trucks to add some of his distinctive snaky slide guitar lines on two tracks, which in the case of "I Want the Truth" helps push the song into Southern rock territory with more than a touch of gospel. The set rolls, rocks, sways, and lurches, and is never predictable, with some tunes changing tempos and groove within their conservative playing times. An obscurity from '80s punk-popper Robert Hazard, "I Just Wanna Hang Around with You," rides an uptempo catchy riff, and even though it's the disc's most energetic moment, slots into the unpredictably rootsy flow. Drop the laser anywhere in these 13 cuts and you'll not only land on a winner, but a tune you'll likely return to in order to peel back its lyrics and hum along with its melody. That's the sign of a successful album, and with Sidewalk Caesars Mattison and Olsen have captured their diverse influences in original tunes that pulse with authority, conviction, and — above all — personality.

Sidewalk Caesars, Scrapomatic
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