Mike Welch
Catch Me
Tone-Cool 1167

In a world of teen-phenom guitarists showing exactly how fast they can play old blues licks, "Monster" Mike Welch has refreshingly shifted gears. His second album, much like his first, is filled with guitar solos, but the snappy "Catch Me (Nothing Lasts Forever)" and a fast version of the rock ‘n’ roll classic "Money (That’s What I Want)" show a welcome reverence for early Beatles.

It’s a smart decision, because, judging from the perfunctory solos in the opening "As Good As Gone," Welch isn’t capable of blowing you away with speed or seducing you with unexpected curves. But he’s excellent at using a short, tight guitar line to serve a good song: "Make Up Your Mind" recalls Stax soul, and not just because of the horns — the players take care to fill each other’s spaces.

There’s a little too much meandering throughout Catch Me — the piano-and-guitar solo exchange on Maceo Merriweather’s "Worried Life Blues," to name one of several offenders, gets old fast. Keyboardist George Leroy Lewis sounds even more anxious than Welch to get to the solo, which gives the album an occasional clunky quality.

But Welch redeems himself on "Changing of the Guard" and "Can’t Reach You" with the basics: catchy choruses and fast rhythm. For young players who haven’t yet achieved Buddy Guy’s inventiveness or Luther Allison’s power, sunny pop is always safer than world-weary blues.

— Steve Knopper

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Boulder, CO, USA.