An album three years in the making, is usually a sign of artistic malaise, indicative of musicians struggling to make anything of their half-baked ideas. In this case, circumstances allowed Dan Patlansky the time to revisit and refine a group of songs in the best tradition of an artist always wanting to improve their creation; the result being a rich collection of strong, powerful tunes that further showcase the vocal and instrumental talents of the South African musician.
Unlike many other Blues musicians, he appears to focus primarily on the quality of the songs first, rather than using them purely as a framework to hang some solos onto. Their subject matter also have a bit more depth than we usually see. ‘Soul Parasite’, for instance, opens the album with a classically punchy Rock riff and lyrics railing against the failings of political leaders. Whereas many others would be content to pound that riff relentlessly into oblivion, the song leads to a divertingly melodic chorus and contains subtle turns that are characteristic of the skilful production throughout.
‘Snake Oil City’ is the purest Blues number, and again points the finger at corrupt politicians, at an up-tempo shuffle pace over which there is an abundance of deliciously clean soloing. There is much variety of pace over the 10 numbers, including a number of really excellent ballads, the first of which, ‘Lost’, has the sort of sensitive organ playing and phrasing that gets to me every time. Despite the diversity of sounds, the guitarist’s solidly Blues-based phrasing runs through each song like the stripes on a stick of rock.
One of my personal favourites is ‘I’ll Keep Trying’, a beautiful ballad with a sumptuous production, and is one of the three numbers that remain from the original concept of the album produced by Tom Gatza; the producer has teased a sweet, restrained vocal performance from the guitarist, not to mention some gorgeous soloing, and the result is a memorable highlight.
‘Hounds Loose’, released as a single taster for the album, is another take on the old Blues theme of selling your soul to the devil and dealing with the eventual payback. Fittingly this features some scorching lead playing that brings SRV to mind in its intensity. This is a really strong set of cleverly arranged tunes that reveal something new on each repeated listen.