Try It... You Might Like It! GA-20 Does Hound Dog Taylor

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Try It... You Might Like It! GA-20 Does Hound Dog Taylor Review

by Thom Jurek

When GA-20 released 2019's Lonely Soul, their debut long-player for Colemine, their loose, raw, high-energy approach to Chicago blues made a fan of Brucer Iglauer, founder of the Windy City's Alligator Records, the world's premier modern blues label. He reached out to sign them but was disappointed to discover they already had a deal. Guitarist Matt Stubbs, a fan of Hound Dog Taylor & the Houserockers since his teens, suggested a compromise. Alligator was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the label's first release, Taylor's self-titled debut album. Stubbs suggested this tribute as a cooperative project between his band and both labels. GA-20's lineup -- Stubbs and slide guitarist/vocalist Pat Flaherty and Tim Carman on drums -- mirrors the Houserockers exactly. GA-20 researched the band's gear and dug deep into their recordings. They selected ten tunes written or closely associated with Taylor.

The set opens with "She's Gone," the swampy first cut from 1971's Hound Dog Taylor & The Houserockers. GA-20's version offers a midtempo groove with a pronounced, clattering snare shuffle, low-end distorted guitar, and Flaherty preaching the blues convincingly over the top of a razor-wire slide attack. It offers proof enough that these cats aren't interested in reinterpreting this music so much as just playing it. "Let's Get Funky" is maniacally driven by Carman's double-time snare choogle, and a mean, wrangling slide riff underscored by a fat, filthy, rhythm guitar vamp. "Sitting at Home Alone" reveals the deep, lasting influence of Elmore James on Taylor and GA-20 alike. It's a slow, testifying blues with barely contained distortion that provides bedrock for stellar interplay between Flaherty's lead fills and the band's breaks-laden 12-bar progression. James is echoed again later when the band offers a stellar read of his "It Hurts Me Too," a nightly entry in the Houserockers' setlist. The instrumental "Phillips Goes Bananas" (titled after Houserockers' guitarist Brewer Phillips) and "Give Me Back My Wig" best illustrate the swagger and strut of GA-20's gritty approach. They are the very best examples of "genuine house rockin' music" here, and are virtually guaranteed to get anyone with a pulse onto the dancefloor.

"See Me in the Evening" is a midtempo stroller driven by Stubbs' unshakeable yet spasmodic guitar boogie. "Sadie" is a sultry groover with Flaherty's grainy vocal at its most expressive riding atop Carman's shuffle; it buoys the lyric while Stubbs provides the low-down vamp that binds the tune to earth, even as the slide threatens to take it over the rails. Though just a shade over two minutes, closer "Hawaiian Boogie" is another riotously happy house rocker; Stubbs' rhythm riff drunkenly shambles across Carman's clattering beat while Flaherty unleashes the full power of his slide as a lead and percussion instrument. Try It... You Might Like It! is a stellar second effort from GA-20. They get the spirit and the sound right here in delivering enough sweaty, raucous, grooves to fuel a rent party all night long.

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