Charlie Wheeler Band,
Blues Karma & the Kitchen Sink
(independent, 2016)

The Charlie Wheeler Band is a '60s-style power trio from Northern Pennsylvania. Like so many blues bands these days, they're actually a roots-rock outfit, with one foot hovering near the blues; as far as their music goes, there's little of traditional blues to be found in these grooves.

There is, however, a lot of Jimi Hendrix-style guitar. Wheeler is nothing is not a Hendrix follower, and his band appears to be based on the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the trio Jimi first found fame with.

This trio -- Wheeler on guitar and lead vocals, Dave Fink on bass and backing vocals, Red Akers on drums -- takes on straight-ahead rock, power ballads, rootsy pseudo-blues -- many styles, many types of songs, but all are given the power trio treatment, which is both a strength and a flaw. The major strength is that all of the tunes are subject to an aggressive, sustained attack with a driving rhythm section creating a steady pulse and the guitar racing unpredictably like an inflamed heart. The result is often exciting.

The big weakness, though, is that everything sounds pretty much the same. If your attention wanders for a moment -- and it will -- then you can lose track of exactly which song you're listening to.

I've got a feeling that, in order to fully appreciate the Charlie Wheeler Band, you ought to be in the club or bar, surrounded by other enthusiastic listeners, all of you knocking back a beer while facing the stage so that the instruments pound in your chest, creating a physical throbbing, instead of just floating away into the atmosphere as they do on this record.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

17 December 2016

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