The Mike Eldred Trio / Mike Eldred

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The sophomore release from guitarist Eldred along with Blasters members John Bazz on bass and drummer Jerry Angel is a rock ‘em, sock ‘em mix of high-octane rockabilly and rollicking blues drenched in Memphis soul. High-profile guests range from the late Ike Turner (on piano!) in one of his last recorded performances (Turner's final album was also on the Zoho Roots label), Elvis guitarist Scotty Moore, Los Lobos co-founder Cesar Rosas, and ex-Fabulous Thunderbirds guitar wildman Kid Ramos. They make impressive contributions but this is Eldred's show as he shifts from the sweet, Hendrix-inspired tone of the instrumental ballad "Ruby's Blues" to the Chuck Berry/Stones rave-up of "Jimmy, Jimmy," with Turner's piano pounding like Jerry Lee Lewis in his prime. Rosas adds Latin flavor to the gospel strains of "This Old Train," but "I Ain't Comin' Back" channels Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Cold Shot" a little too closely for comfort. The recording is crisp, live sounding, and generally filled with sharp, original songwriting that takes some edgy, even extreme chances, such as on "Mr. Newman," a song about a pedophile from his victim's point of view. Not exactly the kind of subject matter you'd expect from a roots-rocking guitarist. That lyrical intensity is tempered by some straight-ahead Texas shuffling in the comparatively simplistic "Lookie Here" and the Ramos-enhanced "Louise." Eldred unplugs and goes solo country-Delta for the Robert Johnson-styled title track, another change of pace in an eclectic album filled with them. The guitarist is a more than adequate singer too, and the fact that he penned all of these tunes, even as derivative as many of them are, shows he's a triple talent as a player, vocalist, and songwriter. The two backing members create a palpable groove throughout, especially on the Booker T.-influenced instrumental "Ms. Gayle's Chicken House," making it obvious why they are given somewhat equal billing as a trio. Eldred's articulate and detailed liner notes describe the sessions and each song, and a back-cover testimonial from ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons might bring some more attention to one of 2011's most impressive blues-rockabilly releases.

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