Freak power! The people have spoken! You, the readers of Jambands.com, voted Grooveshire right into the #1 slot in our last “Groove of the Month” poll – and here we are with a review of their debut EP! Hey, now – don’t you feel proud and powerful?
After putting Grooveshire’s 4-song American Son EP through its paces here in the JamBands.com test kitchen, I can see where you all were coming from as you flexed the muscles of democracy: these lads rock and thrash in the most classic of ways – while doing it with a sound of their own.
For example, take the opener, “Celia Brown”: I can’t make up my mind if this feels more like Duane Allman sitting in with the early ’70s-era J. Geils Band or some of the Geils crew jamming with Duane and the Brothers. Sho’ ‘nuff, out of the gate, the Grooveshire boys sound like they come from a whole lot farther south than Cincinnati, Ohio: a searing slide guitar swaggers barefoot down the gravel road hand-in-hand with the vocal during the intro, making you cock your head like a Bluetick Coonhound, thinking “haven’t I heard this somewhere before?” Things quickly settle into a funky thang – cool on its own, but you can almost hear the knuckles cracking and shoulders popping in preparation for … something.
Then, a little after the three-minute mark, that something happens: the music drops out, leaving a search-and-destroy bass line against some high-hat and foot pedal and wisps of organ while lead singer Chris Melfi does a little testifying. Behind it all comes a round of handclaps on the two and the four while the guitar clears its throat and then – WHAM! – it’s 1973 and Boston’s WRKO is cranked and J. Geils and the gang are trying to beat their way out of the dashboard speaker – or so it seems. The only thing keeping Melfi from blowing his lungs out through his mouth is there’s a harmonica in the way, while the guitar lays down some funky wacka-wacka rhythm. Then the whole band kicks into gear and Melfi belts out the last verse like Peter Wolf on a tear – have mercy!
Or, how about “I’m Just A Widow Now”, which features an opening bass line by Brian Berwanger that is as greasy cool and catchy as the classic riff on Bill Withers’ “Use Me.” This is where the Grooveshire sound becomes even more defined: laid-back and cool drums; solid and dangerous-sounding rhythm guitar (without over-playing – these guys know the value of space); fat organ fills – and a just-out-of-reach slide guitar on the verses that definitely shows Skydog influences. Halfway through “Widow,” guitarists Jason Mollette and Jacob Jones begin to weave and bob with each other. By the time Melfi returns to take the vocal out, the combo of the crunched-up guitars and the gospel-choir-in-the-next-room background vocals sounds like a vintage Humble Pie rave-up, Blackberries backing and all.
The EP is a well-recorded sampler of what each member of Grooveshire is all about. On “Change”, drummer Mike Hennel proves himself to be a master of the powerful groove without playing everything in the house all at once. Meanwhile, the title track shows off Bryan Russell’s keyboard talents, beginning with a no-frills piano tone that eventually gives way to classic B-3 roars, subsiding to lovely Traffic-like cascades. Nice.
Looking over the above commentary, there are a lot of references to bands and artists who made the walls of dorm rooms shake 40 or so years ago. That’s okay. Grooveshire has taken some well-loved time-tested recipes and put their own mark on them. You might be able to identify some of their influences, but they’re not just copying licks.
You can cop an attitude, but you can’t fake soul.
Grooveshire’s got soul.
This week Bran Robbins also reviews the Goose Creek Symphony.