By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
New youngblood blues
Super Blue & Funky
Pat Boyack & the Prowlers
Blues critics have traditionally reviewed work by up-and-comers by comparing it to the output of whatever elder mentored the youngster. Now, however, there is a generation of players--including Shawn Pittman, John Edelman, Mike Welch, and Pat Boyack--who are too young to have been so mentored and too instrumentally comprehensive to be nutshelled by this tired critical tack.
Boyack has a brawny, turbulent guitar style that's very exact, with lead lines that resolve themselves more cogently than the scattershot approach of many of his peers. Musically, all was well on his previous two CDs, on which he and his fellow instrumentalists created hearty music best dubbed a mix of blues- and roots-rock. As is the case with many bands--especially in the realm of the blues--the problem was his singer. Boyack's previous vocalists were self-conscious and imitative, and although they could be credited with a degree of good ol' blue collar folksiness, so might your Uncle Morty--and you wouldn't want to hear him on a CD. New guy Spencer Thomas (formerly of the Solid Senders and more recently, Big Pow Wow) is tonally superior and has far more persuasive, albeit casual, delivery.
Four of the 14 cuts are hard-charging instrumentals. Boyack penned "Longwallin'" and the jazzy "Ol' Blondie Swings Again." Peewee Crayton's "Poppa Stoppa" is a jukin' rocker, while "Mexican Vodka" (by the obscure Hank Marr) has a loopy, infectious faux-Latin beat. Both make you think of 1950s-style strumpets dancing in toreador pants. Both have moose-toned sax from Kaz Kazanoff, arranger of the beefy horn section that pumps up the blastoff cut "Louisiana Love Shack," a definite highlight. Thomas sings it; Boyack wrote it.
While Boyack's songwriting is much to the fore (he wrote 10 of the tunes), he has long been known for his ability to choose some cool covers, in this case the jumpy "For You My Love" and "The Way You Do" (originally by Paul Gayten and Jimmy Nolan, respectively). Thomas' slinky voice is particularly apt for the latter.
"Righteous Love" is a slow blues sung soulfully by guest vocalist W.C. Clarke. Clarke's fellow Austinite, Riley Osborne, certainly merits a tip of the hat for the cholesterol-laden Hammond organ part that complements the song like pepper gravy does a chunk of chicken-fried steak. (Throughout, Boyack exacts good contributions from his sidemen; witness aforementioned Kazanoff and Osborne, as well as hard-hitting drummer Frosty Smith. Yes, he's the same Frosty who drummed for Soulhat and power-organist Lee Michaels in days of yore.)
All in all, Super Blue & Funky is a CD of strength and creativity from Boyack.