Ike Cosse
The Lowdown Throwdown
JSP 283
I can understand why John Stedman was willing to go out on a limb and record unknown newcomer Ike Cosse on his respected British blues label. There is a wealth of creative talent on The Lowdown Throwdown. After the endless stream of derivative blues recordings churned out by wannabes every year, one can't help but be struck hard by some of the original ideas expressed in his songwriting and unique take on blues/R&B material. Likewise, Cosse's guitar playing reflects a creative and skilled assimilation of assorted jazz, rock and blues influences.

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

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