When Nashville-based singer/songwriter/guitarist Mark Selby holed up in Colorado with his songwriting wife, Tia Sillers, to write the songs for his next album, he seems to have intended to come up with a classic blues collection, and so pared his writing down to basic concepts and structures. But it can be a thin line between classic and generic, and the songs he came back with tended more to the latter than the former. Lyrically, Selby is unafraid of clichés; when someone cries, he cries like a baby, when something sinks, it sinks like a stone. In "Buck-Fifty & a Flat-Head Ford," a boy goes down to the crossroads and sells his soul to the Devil to become a great guitar player. Sound familiar? The music Selby wrote for the songs also sounds like what others wrote before. "Sure Hope It Ain't a Train," for example, has the sound of any number of John Lee Hooker songs, and "Dangerous Game" is not far removed from the Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up." But what saves Nine Pound Hammer is that, even if the songs are not impressive as songs, Selby and his rhythm section of bassist Charles "Chopper" Anderson and drummer Daryl Burgess perform them as if they are. The three-piece group plays with all of the conviction, and some of the sound, of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble. Selby sings emotionally and plays all over his guitar, as the bass and drums rush to keep up with him. And Brent Maher, involved as producer, engineer, and mixer, close-mikes the music and then gets a powerful sound; at a time when the sound quality of popular music is descending into crunchy MP3 hell, this disc is clear, forceful, and loud. As such, Selby the performer has succeeded in making the classic electric blues album he had in mind, even if Selby the songwriter fell short.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann