Born out of Steve Lukather‘s side-project jam band, GOODFELLAS, the California-based power trio, SUPERSONIC BLUES MACHINE, has earned a reputation over the past half a decade for being nothing short of a solid blues-rock outfit, with the emphasis being more on the rock side of things than hardcore blues traditionalism. Now, it is time for the band’s third studio installment of hard-driving blues-infested rock, as they are releasing a new album entitled “Voodoo Nation” via Provogue Records on June 24th, 2022. The new outing features a good number of blues icons, as well as some exciting new names in the genre. For a dilettante blues aficionado like me, the names may not ring much of a bell, but it doesn’t really matter: the music speaks volumes, whether or not blues is your go-to genre. The band’s new singer-guitarist, Kris Barras, made quite a good and lasting impression with the recent KRIS BARRAS BAND studio album released earlier this year, so I had my hopes up for this record – and it sure didn’t let me down. To quote the blues-tinted EUROPE single from way back, maybe I’m not supposed to sing the blues, considering where I’m coming from, but I just as well might if it sounds this good.
The album opener, “Money,” layers the mood with a subtle pinch of modern garage-rock á la THE BLACK KEYS and the fat, New Orleans grooves of, say, Dr. John. Following the tried-and-true blues tradition, the lyrics are pining for money with a somewhat gospel-like chorus. However, the line, “There’s no crime in stealing if you’re stealing big,” subtly suggests that, instead of depicting how it feels to be down and out, maybe after a series of bad life choices – as the stereotypical blues format goes – the song paints a picture of how we’re all on the nickel because we have been governed by greedy psychopaths for way too long. What the song maybe lacks in the sarcasm of the PINK FLOYD classic of the same name, it definitely makes up in its diabolical groove.
Speaking of which, one of the album’s outstanding features is the overall funky grooving that resonates maybe more with the elastic and trippy vibes of bands such as SLY & THE FAMILY STONE than the bluesy melancholy of, say, B.B. King. Then again, probably stemming from the fact that Barras comes from the British school of hard rock and blues, there’s a certain rock edge to the songs. It wouldn’t be the first time when Brits put a kind of Union Jack imprint over the Star-Spangled Banner. In a way, SUPERSONIC BLUES MACHINE brings the blues-tinted sound of the swinging late-1960s London up to date in a spectacular sort of ”best of both worlds” manner.
One of the album’s standout tracks is “8 Ball Lucy,” featuring Lousiana slide-wizard Sonny Landreth. Juxtaposed against the band’s signature laid-back groove, the lyrics tell the same old story about how the Devil never comes to you with horns and hooves but disguised as everything you’ve ever wanted. I guess we wouldn’t be making those Faustian deals with him otherwise. The Devil theme continues on “Devil at the Doorstep,” featuring blues guitarist Eric Gales (a.k.a. Raw Dawg); the song is quite an epic 12-bar-blues trip, plunging headlong into the dazed and confused LED ZEPPELIN spheres. These two cuts, if not even the sitar-like guitar solo on the latter track alone, should provide you with enough reason to buy this album!
The title track is yet another fired-up blues-rock performance. The band disserts that, despite the fact that we’re repeatedly told to just embrace our general discontent in this crazy world, we shouldn’t conform to merely being zombies. The riffs punch the point home rather brilliantly, leaving no room for objection. The oriental chanting works wonders in the blues-rock context and I definitely didn’t see it coming. The band goes to great lengths to prove that blues needn’t be merely about pentatonic doodling in the 12-bar format.
There’s a lot of Devil stuff on the album but I guess that has been the name of the blues game since the advent of Robert Johnson. I wouldn’t be surprised if SUPERSONIC BLUES MACHINE had some Faustian business with the Old Nick themselves. They make even the rootsy, country-flavored album closer, “All Our Love,” featuring BLACKBERRY SMOKE‘s Charlie Starr, sound so goddamn catchy. You see, I can put up with almost any genre of music, from Khoomei throat singing to dub-techno to vintage black metal – but country music still remains a no-go zone for me. Nonetheless, I found myself shuffling my feet to the bluegrass rhythms of the closer like nothing to it. So, without further ado, I guess it’s fair to say that “Voodoo Nation” is one hell of a brilliant blues-rock album.
Written by Jani Lehtinen
- Too Late
- Coming Thru
- You and Me (feat. King Solomon Hicks)
- Get It Done (feat. Josh Smith)
- 8 Ball Lucy (feat. Sonny Landreth)
- Devil at the Doorstep (feat. Eric Gales)
- Is It All (feat. Joe Luis Walker)
- Do It Again (feat. Ana Popovic)
- I Will Let Go (feat. Kirk Fletcher)
- Voodoo Nation
- All Our Love (feat. Charlie Starr)
Kris Barras – vocals, guitars
Fabrizio Grossi – bass
Kenny Aronoff – drums