November 3rd, 2011 | Published in Events
By Pete Roche
Have any doubt that Cleveland is home to some exciting, original new music, or that C-Town cultivates a genre other than punk / heavy metal?
I find your lack of faith disturbing.
Let The Flavor win you over. The bawdy blues quartet will play Brothers Lounge on November 9th and Grog Shop on December 10th (with Uncanny Xela and Ian Shaw).
Comprised of four hardcore Ohio blues aficionados ranging in age from mid-twenties to mid-fifties, The Flavor serves up a smorgasbord of Southwestern-styled blues on their eponymous first release for Love Muffin Records. Fans of Springsteen, Southside Johnny, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Fabulous Thunderbirds, Elvis Presley, and Allman Brothers take note. If it has strings, The Flavor fellow can play it proficiently—from Telecasters and vintage Gibson Les Pauls to Fender Resonator guitar and electric mandolin—and add it to their sonic stew.
Commencing with in some in-studio talk and laughter, “Hot Sauce” bolts from the gate with rollicking twelve-bar blues straight out of the Louisiana bayou. A Cajun vibe pervades the track, which finds 25-year old singer / guitarist Joe Landes engaging in a little tongue-in-cheek risqué innuendo regarding his nickname: They call me Hot Sauce / Put your hand on my bottle / Take off the top / Get yourself some hot sauce / You’ll want every last drop. The swampy slide guitar solo and extended chicken pickin’ provide just a taste of what lies ahead on the delectable debut.
“Goin’ Up North” matches Dave “Mann” Wolf’s crunchy guitar with Ernie Richmann’s sharp drum attack and Adam Rich’s understated bass for a great groove, upon with Landes and Wolf swap some trebly, melodic leads. “Before You Let Me Go” eases the throttle a bit, the sturdy rhythm section playing in the pocket until the whispered outro. But then it’s full speed ahead once more on “The Truth,” a rockabilly barnstormer with big beats and gritty guitar.
“Little Girl” is a ready-made radio hit, employing vocal harmony over a simple but irresistible chord progression to extol a lover’s many virtues: You and me, hand in hand / You told me you didn’t want any other man / Now I’m trying the best I can…. “I’ve Lost Your Love” is the other side of the same coin, with Landes and Wolf relying on Martin D-28 and Alvarez DY-74 acoustics to bemoan romance gone awry.
“Hot and Bothered” has the boys getting mischievous again, with Landes relaying the familiar tale of a Lothario who hits the ground running when his girlfriend’s gun-toting husband unexpectedly comes home. “Short Haired Woman” is another humorous entry, wherein the narrator ignores warnings from his mama (and preacher) about girls with close cuts, tattoos, and body piercings.
Landes professes love of his instrument in “My Guitar,” siding with his six-string when a temptress forces him to choose. The playful tune crashes to a halt—only to start back up again in double-time. “Odd Man Out” examines the life of an extrovert, over whom bad mojo hangs like a thundercloud. Rich propels the number along with strident bass, over which Landes sprinkles a jazz-inflected solo. “Bleedin’ Soul” approaches “Texas Flood” territory in ambition and scope; the slow, angst-ridden Delta blues piece sounds as if Landes and Wolf contributed solos with every instrument in their collective arsenal, slide guitar to lap-steel.
The album’s midsection showcases musical reflection “Vertigo,” whereon The Flavor’s more serious side comes out, with the band exploring chances taken (and opportunities lost): Pause at the threshold / Take a deep breath / Win by a landslide / Or meet sudden death. It’s a clever spin on that butterflies-in-the-stomach sensation one gets when trying something new or especially difficult, where each decision is crucial and the outcome offers no safety net between the two extremes of success and failure. At nearly seven minutes, “Closer to You” traipses through Mexicana styles, with the fleet-fingered guitarists kicking up dust with flamenco fills and bottleneck slides. Album capper “End” is no less delightful for being the disc’s shortest selection—or its only instrumental.
The Flavor are to be commended for the production job on this self-made CD. The mix is quite good, with Rich’s bass and Richmann’s Gretsch Catalina Club Jazz kit sitting centered as miscellaneous lead instruments (including autoharp and melodica) by Landes and Wolf occupy stereo left and right. The sound couldn’t be more crisp, or the playing more tight.
The Flavor perform at Brothers in Lakewood on November 9th and Grog Shop on December 10th.