Crow Black Chicken

Electric Soup

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The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream are among the first groups that come to mind when discussing classic power trios. Ireland's Taste, led by guitarist Rory Gallagher, were also there at the beginning. They were raw, rocked hard, and were more devoted to the blues. Gallagher kept the trio format long after going solo, and became a fine songwriter as well. Crow Black Chicken are his countrymen. Christy O'Hanlon (vocals, guitar), Stephen McGrath (bass), and Gev Barrett (drums, backing vocals) have soaked up his and his contemporaries' influences, as well other loud and proud trios: ZZ Top, Mountain, Gov't Mule, etc. Electric Soup is their debut long-player. It's an excellent showcase for CBC's stunning playing and excellent songwriting -- the latter is something many of their contemporaries never learned. These are not mere riff-heavy stoner rock jams, but songs. While they keep things basic, CBC understand the place of melody and dynamics; they've soaked up their share of folk and country in addition to blues and guitar rock. The set commences with "White Lightning," a nasty boogie that wrangles the blues in twisting, turning guitar lines that twin with O'Hanlon's vocal. "Skin Deep" is nearly funky: a meaty, swaggering, greasy blues-rocker with a thrumming bassline. "Epitaph" begins as a road-weary electric Americana tune. O'Hanlon skillfully offers a lonesome tale accompanied only by his guitar. The band kicks in on the second verse and one can hear traces of Phil Lynott's storytelling, though the band is downright snaky in its elocution of rock grooves. The instrumental interplay that commences the title track is almost astonishing as the players wind around McGrath's double-timed, bumping bassline, then shift to reveal a seductive, brooding, silvery melody. "Bijou Creole" is pure boogie with a nasty slide guitar vamp for fuel. This band can power rumble with the best of them, as evidenced by the unhinged power (Motörhead, anyone?) in "Murmuration." The lone ballad here, "Lie Awake," reveals the band's ability to employ lyricism without sacrificing power. The closer is a cover of "John the Revelator" that cuts like razor wire -- think ZZ Top meets Gallagher meets Elmore James meets Gov't Mule. It's no small feat to take on a standard of that heft and origin and make it your own, but CBC pull it off. Electric Soup is not only a promising debut, it's a savage beast of a record: grimy, lean, mean, and soulful. [The package also includes a bonus DVD that features the band playing the album live and includes another original -- and killer -- readings of "Goin' Down" and "Black Asphalt."]

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