Studebaker John and the Hawks
Time Will Tell
Blind Pig 5042
A Windy City blues fixture since the early '70s, Studebaker John Grimaldi has developed his own gritty style. Using a flattened coin for a pick, he rips a feverish, metal-on-metal sound from his guitar, blistering haunting, street-wise grooves to dark perfection.
Buoyed by hypnotic drumming from Earl Howell that is almost tribal at times, Grimaldi wrestles with elemental forces and primal emotions. "You got to keep on movin'/Ya can't never slow down/Keep on moving/'Til they put you in the ground," he growls on "The Road."
Seems the only breaks he takes from fighting his demons is to play with dangerous dames, like the one he sings about in "She Plays Hard." His vocals snap like heat lightning through his harp mike over New Orleans voodoo rhythms as he spins another dark tale of girl trouble on "Nasty Mother": "She jumped in my car/She just said go/Well, I started movin' out/She said, you goin' too slow." Dashiell Hammett would have traded stories, drinks and maybe punches with Grimaldi.
The songs have an ear for economical, tight structure, and his traditional blues give equal play to his gift for interpretation and leave ample room for him to tear it up with steel-string slide guitar While the bulk of Time Will Tell is based around danceable, jump-boogie rhythms, Grimaldi can deliver the goods on a ballad, too. Check out the spare, echoing guitar wails on "Forever."
But it's a night-time walk in the shadows, reflecting neon and street lamps, heartache and tough times, and Time Will Tell makes for mighty fine listening.
-- B.J. Huchtemann