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Wandering Stranger

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Album Review

One can only be grateful that the Delta blues has experienced yet another mutation since the dawn of the new millennium. In the 1990s, acts like the Flat Duo Jets, the Blues Explosion, 20 Miles, and a host of others used the Delta tradition in their brand of post-punk blues. But in the new century, bands like the Black Keys, Immortal Lee County Killers, Pearlene, and Guy Blakeslee's Entrance go deeper into the root. They ape the forms, evoke the ghostly spirit and feel of the tradition, and meld it together with a shambolic rock & roll intensity. Questions of authenticity mean nothing here. It's the spirit of the original music that's hotly and often raucously pursued and evoked. In Blakeslee's case, Wandering Stranger is drenched in the devil's music, from Charley Patton to John Hurt. Blakeslee has augmented the band this time with fiddler-pianist Paz Lenchantin and drummer Tommy Rowse so he can concentrate on playing guitar and singing — no irritating one-man rhythms on this set. The music itself is a wild, wonderful approach to the Delta music in both original and traditional tunes — with a killer mutant cover of Townes Van Zandt's "Rex's Blues" that would make the late songwriter proud. This is not simply revival music. Blakeslee's raw blues are tempered by wooly psychedelic textures as on the album's hinge piece, "Lonesome Road." Lenchantin's fiddle swirls above and through the mix, never quite squealing, but winding and whining against the guitars. The guitar plods and a subtle, constant, basic, yet unobtrusive rhythm moves the snaky tune forward in a labyrinthine fashion until it reaches catharsis. Blakeslee's voice is a moaning, warbling lonely spirit. It has plenty of expression for its thin grainy tone. In the liners, Blakeslee thanks Blind Willie McTell and Uncle Dave Macon for the traditional "Darlin'," which for nearly ten minutes is a hypnotic acoustic blues that becomes a mutant sonic freak-out. It's not hyperbole either, as he sticks close to the intent and feel of the song almost all the way through. The two closing tracks, "Please Be Careful in New Orleans" and "Happy Trails" (not the cowboy tune), are wig-outs, full of wrangled, faltering guitars and slippery rhythms that channel the history of the Delta blues into some nocturnal present-day swamp music. Wandering Stranger is a provocative, utterly compelling outing that is as confusing and sexy as it is savagely beautiful.


Born: 29 April 1981 in Baltimore, MD

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Guy Blakeslee is the brainchild behind the kitschy rock sound of Entrance. Blending threads of T. Rex glam with Big Star/Cheap Trick-styled pop hooks and more homespun acid folk, Entrance offers something more tangible than what Blakeslee put out working with the Convocation Of... in Baltimore. As a resident of Chicago, Entrance became a regular performer at The Hideout, a local bar that hosted a Monday night cabaret with Zwan's Matt Sweeney. For 18 months, Entrance honed his soulful indie rock....
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Wandering Stranger, Entrance
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