Hoodoo Papas,
Past Due
(independent, 2003)

"Two regular guys ... two dangerous guitars" is how the publicity material that arrived along with the CD for Past Due describes the Hoodoo Papas. So when the opening track, "Only Two Ways About It," launches with piano and a rather subdued guitar arrangement I got a little confused. The track is far from the best piece on this second release from Rick Seale and Rick Woodward and it's a poor choice to lead off the album. Whichever of the Ricks handles the lead vocals is a shade flat on much of the song, particularly the choruses.

Unfortunately, with no production credits for the individual songs, it's difficult to determine which of the Ricks is the weak singer, but the bluesy numbers "Big Hearted Woman" and "Easy Going Man" are other tracks that are sung quite poorly.

The guitar playing on Past Due is reasonably good, but only rarely does it manage to truly excite, let alone approach a "dangerous" level. In general the faster songs, such as "Getting Your Signal," come off better than the slower compositions as the band's energy makes up for some of the deficiencies in playing and production. This seems to be a band that would deliver the goods live, but which hasn't mastered the demands of the more precise, cleaner, less forgiving studio recording environment. And when one chooses to record primarily in the stripped-down format of two guitars plus vocals, every weakness and flaw is going to be right out front on display.

Compositionally, Past Due has a few reasonably strong moments. "Getting Your Signal" is a punchy, if somewhat cliched, falling out of love song. "Waiting on the Storm" charts similar territory lyrically but has the sort of catchy chorus that could click in the hands of the right performer. "Cancun Song" is reminiscent of "Margaritaville," although it's not quite as silly as Jimmy Buffett's 1977 mega-hit.

"Someone Like You" is the most ambitious song on Past Due, with lyrics including, "I froze with the ice man, I walked through the fire. I rode with the armies of the queen of desire. I stumbled in shadow. I stood in the light. Now I'm searching for a way back to you." The song has real potential but suffers from a couple of clumsily delivered lines, slight tempo shifts and very tentative background vocals. The lead guitar break works well and, despite a lackluster ending that makes the track feel unfinished, the song somehow manages to rise above the weak points in this recording.

In the end Past Due is an unimpressive disc that only dedicated fans of the Hoodoo Papas are likely to feel they need to own. It has a couple of good songs and a bunch that aren't so great, performed by a couple of guitarists who love to play but can't translate that enthusiasm in the recording studio.

- Rambles
written by Gregg Thurlbeck
published 8 January 2005

[ visit the artist's website ]