The Lowdown Throwdown
Cosse and his band, the Coldbloods, have been appearing at Santa Cruz, California, area clubs the past decade. The 32-year-old Michigan native drifted from rock to jazz fusion before finding the blues. This non-traditional apprenticeship helps explain his divergence from blues musical dogma to a much more open-ended approach. Cosse is a gifted songster (all 12 tracks are originals) who writes with wit and a fresh slant on mostly same-old themes. In "Bang Bang Girls" he warns of the seductiveness of strip-club dancers, and in "Doggy Style" he muses over kids walking in on mommy and daddy -- and they're not practicing the Heimlich Maneuver. "Hubba Bubba Brother" is a funked-up number that sarcastically decries a crack-addled blight on the black community.
A talented horn section led by tenor sax ace Charles McNeel and Earoll Slack's B-3 create an infectious rhythm on several uptempo tracks, and Big Bones contributes some solid harmonica backing.
Nevertheless, there's a major problem here that no amount of originality and musical skill can cover up: Cosse's singing is painfully weak. His flat tenor lacks range and emotion, and in some cases is woefully off-key. Once I got over the refreshing musical approach, it became tough to overlook. Stedman and noted British blues collector Mick Rainsford, who provides the copious and effusive liner notes, are listening with a radically different set of ears.
Give Cosse a ton of credit for originality, and perhaps The Lowdown Throwdown deserves a listen on that count alone. Hard-core blues traditionalists and those expecting a singer to deliver the goods, however, will be put off.
-- Jack Oudiz