Various Artists

Alive at the Deep Blues Fest

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The blues will never die, but making sense of its life cycle is a bit puzzling at times. In the latter years of the 20th century, blues fans became purists and developed a greater interest in the music's acoustic roots, but not long after the millennium turned over, the one-two punch of the White Stripes and the Black Keys flipped the script and hip rock dudes began running blues figures through dirty pickups and overloaded amps like depopulated versions of Savoy Brown or Foghat. Alive Naturalsound Records has become one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the new blues-rock movement, and a number of their acts were booked at the Deep Blues Festival in Bayport, Minnesota during the summer of 2012. A recording rig was on hand to document the proceedings, and Alive at the Deep Blues Fest offers up 63 minutes of high-impact blues wailing from seven different acts. It's probably telling that the most exciting tracks here come from the band that strays furthest from standard-issue electric blues; Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires add a healthy portion of country and Southern rock to their formula, and the mixture is at once lighter and more combustible, and their two numbers connect with genuine force and energy. Brian Olive clearly digs the blues, but there's as much R&B and classic soul in his songs, and while his music is less physically powerful than the other acts featured here, in terms of songcraft "Bonelle" and "Travelling" are standouts. The five other bands on deck traffic in variations on the traditional big guitar/heavy drums formula, with Henry's Funeral Shoe sounding the most fiery and inspired, and Radio Moscow coming in last, verging on self-parody with their psych-infused crunch. Even the least of the acts is livelier here than on its studio albums, and fans of high-velocity blues-rock are likely to enjoy this, but for all the sound and fury there isn't a lot here that won't sound awfully familiar to anyone with a sense of history.

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