John Tristao

Big Hat, No Cattle

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The lead singer of '60s pop band People and voice of Creedence Clearwater Revisited comes up with an amazing combination of tunes that would be a revelation if played as part of the new CCR's live show -- and they are that revelation in this context. "Still Water Runs Deep" sounds like B.W. Stevenson cruising through the bayou -- the trio of drummer Larry Mason, guitarist Kevin Johnson, and singer/multi-instrumentalist John Tristao creating an impressive pop environment for the old-time philosophy. The nine originals are joined by three co-writes with Creedence Clearwater Revival's (and Revisited's) Doug Clifford -- and yes, this set does sound like Creedence more than People. If the new CCR tends to mimic the old Creedence (seeing them live is like experiencing a tribute band), the material here is everything that is missing from a Creedence Clearwater Revisited show -- ingenuity, originality, and heart -- while maintaining the Creedence sound. The material is just great: "A Million Things" -- one of those co-writes with Clifford -- is the type of material fans of the venerated '60s band would embrace if Tristao and his famous friends got behind this disc on tour. Cars guitarist Elliot Easton, one of the most underrated players in rock, shows up on "How Else," "Wake Up Call," "The Right Place," "My Heart Understood," and a moving "I Was Wrong" -- good news for the cult of Cars fans who continuously track down every nugget their heroes play on. But the show here belongs to Tristao, a veteran voice that -- like Easton -- hasn't been fully recognized for his contributions. "That's the Way It Is," with harmonica from Dan O'Connell and backing vocals provided by Janie Cribbs, is just a superb ballad, songwriting that delivers what Clifford needed on his solo work. They have it here and should go out of their way to exploit its beauty for all it's worth. Outside of the silly title track that opens and closes the disc, this is no-nonsense pop/rock with bluesy overtones. A very impressive set of compositions deserving attention.

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