Alvin Youngblood Hart has made a
name for himself in a hurry. His 1996 debut release, Big Mama’s
Door, led to a W.C. Handy
Award for Best New Blues Artist. Territory, the acclaimed follow-up,
polls in Downbeat and Living Blues. Both discs, particularly
the latter, mixed new-fangled Mississippi blues with elements of old-timey
country music and anything else he felt like. Territory even
included a Captain Beefheart instrumental.
For his third release, Hart has
gone electric in a big way. Working in a power trio format, Hart plugs
in and pushes the pedals to create a sort of updated ’60s rock. Several
of the tunes, such as "The
sound like Jimi Hendrix outtakes. That’s
not necessarily a bad thing, but much of the rock on Start doesn’t
strike me as particularly individual or at all distinctive — I don’t
hear his personality come through on these songs.
more to the record than three-chord rock. "Once
features Hart speaking over a blues groove and showcasing his no-frills
guitar work. The vocals are purposefully muddied, almost like a Tom
Waits narrative. That song leads into "Porch
a funky, soulful instrumental reminiscent of the Meters. "Electric
follows, with a slow, slithering, sinister sound straight from the jungle.
By now, the record is starting
to work its magic. Then Hart takes the listener "Back
a one-chord autobiographical journey chronicling his recent move from
the Bay Area to Memphis. And what Alvin Hart recording would be complete
without a song from the range? This time out it’s
with Hart confessing his desire for a pair of his own.
Only on "A
I Ever Get Back Home"
does Hart show us his great skill as a propulsive finger-picking guitarist.
begrudge him the right to expand and experiment, but these are the songs
that really touch my soul.
Most of Start With the Soul
is interesting, challenging, and occasionally brilliant; some of it
is less successful. Pick the tunes you like and enjoy.
— David Feld