Barefoot Servants

2

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Eleven years after the Barefoot Servants' debut on Epic Records in 1994 came the return of this four-piece supergroup of session players with a supremely commercial outing that begs for airplay and recognition. Cleverly titled Barefoot Servants 2 from the Bob Dylan song "All Along the Watchtower," the 15 compositions have passion and distinct identities -- no two songs sounding alike. Where the Section, a '70s ensemble which also featured Leland Sklar, had somewhat faceless compositions, these players decide to model songs which sound like their favorite artists -- some of whom they've played with. Guitarist Ben Schultz's time with Rod Stewart is documented here in "Brown Penny," an Every Picture Tells a Story-styled ballad featuring Jon Butcher at his throaty raspiest. There's no denying that opening track "Pharaoh's House" has Exile on Main St. overtones absent from the Rolling Stones' 1990s efforts, while "Love You Too Much" is a sequel to "She Drives Me Crazy" that Fine Young Cannibals could never find. These seasoned pros attack the original material with a seriousness, and that's how they pull off the tongue-in-cheek nods to their respective careers. As Jon Butcher has never denied his adoration of Hendrix, there's the obligatory nod to Jimi's genius. "Over Lovin' You" would make the guitar master proud, and it's probably the only place where Butcher indulges his own passions, displaying an ability to change genres as each song demands. The record is an absolute delight, mirroring the band RTZ's Lost album, where Brad Delp and Barry Goudreau from the band Boston take on styles and sounds that they hold near and dear. The independent Atom Records label has reissued the album with two additional tracks, as the first pressing sold out rather quickly. Drummer Neal Wilkinson has played with a diverse bunch, from John Tesh and Livingston Taylor to Brit-rock phenoms Ultravox. His percussive genius lifts "Crazy" to a unique space. The quartet may not have the name recognition of the individual members of Blind Faith, nor does this album tread that sacred ground, but it's clear that these journeyman know their trade and it's also very clear that their combined chops and intelligence have created a record which actually sounds as fun as it probably was to make. These days that is truly something special, putting Barefoot Servants 2 in a league all its own.

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