Memo Gonzalez & The Bluescasters (USA/DE)
©Crossut Records 2009
Memo Gonzalez (vocals, harmonica), Kai Strauss (Guitar, vocals), Erkan Ozdemir (bass), Henk Punter(drums)
Here’s a treat to start the year off – the new studio offering from European favourites, Memo Gonzalez & The Bluescasters, “Dynomite” – the band’s second offering on CrossCut Records, following the “Live In The UK” release in 2006. The big man from Dallas, Texas – now based in Germany – and the band, have certainly diversified their sound, and as Memo says, “We wanted to show that we weren’t just another ‘shuffle, swing and slow band.”
Certainly on this, their fifth release, the trademark sound is still in place, but probably with a lot more soul and funk edges – and of course the band’s trump card is still in place – the quite staggering guitar of Kai Strauss, one of the finest guitarists around in any genre! Together with the strong rhythm section of Erkan Ozdemir (bass) and Henk Punter (drums), the band sound better than ever.
The sound on “Dynomite” is filled out on this release with some fine, mainly rhythm, guitar from Portland, Oregon-based Josh Fulero, with Jan Karow’s piano and organ also guesting throughout – especially nice on the soulful blues of “Please Come Home”, with heartfelt, pleading vocal from Memo Gonzalez.
The (almost) title cut, “Dynomite Nitro” rides along on a fabulous guitar groove from Kai Strauss with some snarling leads over the top – and some very risqué lyrics – this being a song once performed by the late Texas guitarist Robin Syler, a major influence on Memo’s songwriting. Kai Strauss takes lead vocals on his own “One Day, One Kiss, One Night” – a rollicking uptempo rocker with some fine twangy baritone guitar, superbly driven along by the boys in the rhythm section.
One of the standouts is the beautiful Southern soul classic “Slip Away”, with lots of Steve Cropper-flavoured guitar and another impassioned vocal from the big man – lovely stuff indeed. The following “Double-Eyed Whammy”, a Freddie King co-write, again has a nice groove and feel, with another masterful performance from Kai Strauss.
Memo Gonzalez mainly highlights his fine voice on this release, but his harmonica is featured on “Mary Lynn”, another highlight and a sort of cross between Slim Harpo and Jimmy Reed, with lead guitar by Josh Fulero; the lowdown “What’s In A Name” sees the chromatic harmonica make an appearance, and more heartbreak and pleading on the vocal.
“D Jump” does just that – a nice swing tune with all the band featuring – nice harmonica and guitar, with that rock steady rhythm section driving the tune along; “Lonely Boy sees the band hit a Texas groove, with the album closing with the driving rocker of “Fat Boy”, with both guitars tearing it up, and a particularly fine slide solo from Josh Fulero.
Yet again, another ‘killer’ from this fine band – just a shame that their upcoming tour isn’t hitting our area, but I’m sure they will be back soon. To sum up, a great cd, possibly the best so far, and certainly a slight shift in musical direction, but none the worse for it!
Graham Rhodes - Blues In The Northwest, UK
The big Texan is a very accomplished harmonica player with a superbly lush tone. ...Strauss (is) a superdooper guitarman ...(and) the band swings like a suspension bridge in a hurricane."
blueprint magazine, UK (2001)