Jon Wahl

Sour Suite

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Unquestionably, this is the finest record from Jon Wahl in a very long time. His band Claw Hammer were always a great live band, but delivered wildly inconsistent records. This first album from his new project sounds inspired and unlike any previous efforts. Rather than spew forth the usual avant/blues/punk, Wahl sings in a much less frenzied style on Sour Suite and sounds at times like a slightly deranged Vegas lounge singer, though one who can really tackle the blues or a jazz standard like he means it. This he does very successfully on what has to be the zillionth rendition of "Blue Moon," called here "Blooooo Mooooon," where Wahl works magic with his throbbing vibrato and a wonderful backdrop behind him featuring a piano, guitar, and drums thumping along at a drunk marching band's pace. Wahl also pulls off a lovely, drowsy cover of the standard "Tennessee Waltz" and nails a knockout sax solo in the middle of it. Though Wahl's originals are startling on Sour Suite, nothing quite hits the gorgeous note of those two covers. But "She Was Plastic" is a fine opus, with Wahl playing some spectacular guitar, while "Maybe" is the album's most rock-sounding tune, and it whips around like something caught in a washing machine. But generally the pace is after-hours jazzy and Wahl's unique vocals prove to be perfect for slow waltzes and wounded ballads.

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