Altered Five Blues Band,
Cryin' Mercy
(Omnivibe, 2014)

On this, its third album, the Milwaukee-based Altered Five Blues Band amply demonstrates its strengths -- Jeff Taylor's gruff, growling voice and the tightness of the band. Taylor can belt out a 12-bar blues, can shuffle with the best of them and can deliver a soul ballad as if he were a member of the Stax-Volt stable in the '70s. Jeff Schroedl's guitar responds beautifully to Taylor's call, while laying down solid rhythm and delivering some pretty good solo work. Shroebel doesn't show off, doesn't try to call attention to himself and his chops like so many guitarists do it. He plays tastefully for the most part and serves the song with his fills.

The rhythm section -- Mark Solveson on bass and and Scott Schroedl on drums -- anchors the sound nicely.

If good singing and tasteful playing was all that was needed to be a first-rate blues band, then Altered Five would be major stars. Unfortunately, there's another step on the ladder: the writing. And that's the area where the Altered Five Blues Band is the weakest. Their lyrics are pretty much standard blues stuff: They sing about "Devil Women" who "come from the supernatural," women who need to stay out of their business, a counterfeit lover who had the singer fooled from the start, a counterfeit lover who kept him in the dark, a counterfeit lover who isn't the real thing.

The weakness in the writing weakens the effect of the album. It leaves you, on a first hearing, feeling you've heard it all before.

If the Altered Five Blues Band improves its writing, it could be a dynamite group. Right now it's more of a firecracker.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

15 November 2014

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