Toledo blues rockers Five Horse Johnson are twenty years into their career, and it sounds that way on Jake Leg Boogie, their eighth full-length assault on the ears.
These men are craftsmen, and make no bones about that fact, yet there’s still a gritty flair to Jake Leg Boogie that’ll find itself attracting listeners to the band that wouldn’t in a million years think of themselves as committed bluesers – like me.
Y’see, the blues is as much a state of mind as a musical genre, and it’s infected a lot of brains down the years. So, you’ll hear obvious hints of John Lee Hooker (especially on the trad blues of Smoke Show) dotted around the place, of course, but also huge slabs of droning, almost Eastern-sounding riffage that’ll have die hard Led Zeppelin devotees slavering and frothing when confronted by tracks like Ropes and Chains and Little Lonely.
Indeed hard rock plays a major part in this band’s interpretation of the blues, and when the band gets up a full head of steam it becomes a hard-to-handle juggernaut of quasi-metallic destruction, which readers of Sentinel Daily are sure to embrace with open arms.
On the other hand, Hard Times half inches and beefs up the main riff of REM’s The One I Love and turn it into something Joe Bonamassa might take an interest in; this band know their onions, musically, and squeeze every last drop of juice out of their various influences to create something that might have whiffs of the various sources but which remains very much identifiably Five Horse Johnson. And that’s a nice talent to have.
At the heart of all this are the bruised vocals of Eric ‘EO Toledo’ Oblander, a man with grandiosely gruff pipes who despite singing within a pretty tight range manages to portray the full gamut of human emotion along the way. On Smoke Show his harp playing and straight-up honest vocalising brings to mind the late, lamented Lee Brilleux of Essex R N’B legends Dr. Feelgood, which is a pretty good comparison to find yourself in – and he’s worth his place there.
Not your usual Sentinel Daily fare, then, but there are enough moments of hard-rocking goodness on display here to draw in the unsuspecting denim-clad bystander. If you’ve ever enjoyed a dash of George Thorogood, or Stevie Ray Vaughan, or ZZ Top, then there’s plenty here to get your teeth into. Bon appetit!
Jake Leg Boogie will be released by Small Stone Recordings on June 30th