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Done With the Devil

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Album Review

The three pages of liner notes squished into eye-straining type that greet the purchaser of Jason Ricci and his band's highly anticipated follow-up to their roaring 2007 debut for the appropriately named Eclecto Groove label, boil down to this: it's a group effort with Ricci as only one component, and the members understand that their genre-mashing approach is not strictly blues, but they don't care. There's a lot more, of course, but one listen to this set that shifts from good-timey shuffles such as the sunshiny "Sweet Lovin'" to the jazz-rock fusion of the following "Holler for Craig Lawler" and the Latin influenced instrumental "Ptryptophan Pterodactyl" is enough to convince any newcomer that Ricci and co. can successfully infiltrate just about any style of music they please. There's an underlying blues base to everything, even the excursions into hard rock with a frenzied cover of Glenn Danzig's punky "I Turned into a Martian," and it's what grounds, but never shackles, the unit. Ricci's frantic harp lines and somewhat forced yet effective vocals provide the focus as he and the three-piece traipse through their diverse musical playground. Further covers from Willie Dixon (a straight-ahead "As Long as I Have You" that finds Ricci singing like he's channeling the ghost of Jim Morrison), a nearly nine-minute version of Mongo Santamaria's classic "Afro Blue," and Sun Ra (a dark, oompah, circus-styled "Enlightenment" with parts that seem to be rescued from a Tom Waits nightmare) show the sheer range contained in the foursome's eclectic attack. Producer/multi-instrumentalist Phillip Wolfe keeps the sound centered, stripping it down on the opening title track rocker while adding subtleties and twists such as organ, percussion, and female backing vocals on an as needed basis. Guitarist Shawn Starski acts as a foil to Ricci's harmonica pyrotechnics, riding shotgun — musically and as a songwriter — and keeping his own flashy tendencies subdued, perhaps overly so. Bassist Todd Edmunds also co-writes a song, the creeping Ricci autobiographical "Broken Toy," and occasionally adds his sousaphone skills to the proceedings. It's a combustible combination and, as anyone who has seen them live can attest to, it explodes on-stage. The trick is to translate that energy and diversity into the studio, a far more difficult task than it seems, but based on the goods here, one that Ricci and New Blood accomplish with disarming ease. Staunch blues fans may balk at the envelope pushing, but Ricci stays true to both the form and his own wide-ranging conceptual palette. It's a tough balancing act accomplished by a group who, like the early Butterfield Blues Band, is overloaded with talent, passion, and a ton of enthusiasm to stretch musical boundaries into somewhat uncharted territory.

Customer Reviews

great album....

Yet another great album from Jason Ricci and New Blood. Afro Blue is worth the cost of the album on its own. Count yourself lucky if you have heard Jason and the band do this number live....

Another step forward!

Jason is the most exciting harmonica player out there. Buy this and then go see him play. Amazing!

Excellent, Genre-Bending Album

Jason Ricci is easily one of the top harmonica players in the world, using the instrument in innovative ways that are unrecognizable to many ears. But this album, more than previous ones, is a collaboration among the entire band, with lush and eclectic results. Done with the Devil is a natural follow-up and exciting companion to the band's equally wonderful Rocket Number 9 album.

Done With the Devil, Jason Ricci and New Blood
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Customer Ratings