Melvin Taylor & the Slack Band
Demand the name of the brilliant, technically evolved guitarist who, because he uses wah-wah and echo unit, is denied his due by that burg's blues intelligentsia. The Windy City resident will swaller his bratwurst and very likely reply: "Melvin Taylor."
A mere glance at Dirty Pool's selections and you know what Taylor's up to, as two of the songs ("Born Under a Bad Sign" and "I Ain't Superstitious") are staples of rock bands, and no fewer than three are from the SRV orbit. Of the latter, the Bramhall/Vaughan title track is performed incandescently. "Telephone Song" also smokes, and Bramhall's "Too Sorry" is the rockin' kickoff cut for this exciting CD.
Taylor and his Slack Band are a threesome, but unlike your standard power trios, they don't play "heavy." Songs open with Taylor performing with jazzy, almost delicate flourish and feel, and even when he hotwires with echo and wah, it's his playing and not the FX that carry the ball. His speed is dizzying, and when he soars into one of those pentatonic arpeggios so dear to power rock, it's thrilling -- but credit him with a true artist's lack of bombast.
It doesn't hurt that, voice-wise, Taylor happens to sound like Jimi Hendrix. Certain of his pronunciations indicate he's not unaware of this lucky plus, but he's gracious enough not to overplay it. Skywardly point thumbs for bassist Ethan Farmer and drummer Jim Knowles, who know how to provide the extra oomph a trio needs without getting cluttered and ponderous. Thumbs up again for producer John Snyder; threesomes are tricky to record, but this set sounds fine. Thrust thumbs thirdly for their not dubbing a rhythm guitar track, a common trio tactic. Methinks Taylor's eschewing it ups the immediacy of his session (not to mention its aural honesty).
Fans of hot but classy guitar work will not want to miss this nine-cut endeavor from Taylor and his Slack dudes, who play with such zest and skill they even scintillate on the warhorse "Kansas City."
-- Tim Schuller