John the Conqueror

John the Conqueror

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As long as rock & roll still draws breath, there's no getting away from the blues, but who knew that blues-rock would suddenly make such a comeback? No one's shouting "boogie" anymore, but in many respects, the Black Keys and the like-minded bands who've followed in their wake have more in common with Savoy Brown or Foghat as anything that's seemed stylistically innovative in the past couple decades (beyond clearing out the chaff by shrinking the lineup), and the new kids on this scene, Philadelphia's John the Conqueror, aren't bringing much you haven't already heard to the picture. The group's self-titled debut album is dominated by a king-size portion of lean but muscular blues changes courtesy of frontman Pierre Moore, married to the fierce but steady hard rock attack of bassist Ryan Lynn and drummer Michael Gardner. As you might expect, Moore's songs find him having trouble with his woman (or women), enjoying alcoholic beverages, and celebrating his roots in the Deep South (which Moore comes by honestly, as he and Gardner were born and raised in Mississippi), all accompanied by lots of thick, fuzzy guitars and hard-stomping rhythms. If John the Conqueror are regrettably short on originality, they are genuinely good at what they do -- Moore's guitar work is admirably short on self-indulgent soloing, and twists familiar riffs with pithy style, his vocals are effective, and the rhythm section grooves solidly without a lot of wasted effort or aural clutter. They probably would have sounded like a breath of fresh air if you saw them opening for, say, Head East in 1974. But here in 2012, John the Conqueror aren't doing anything other folks haven't done before (and better), and while they've clearly got potential, they're a long way from making the most of it.

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