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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Spin Doctors - If The River Was Whiskey

Spin Doctors – If The River Was Whiskey
2013, Ruf Records
The Spin Doctors cut their teeth with an infectious mix of pop, rock and blues; the quintessential American bar band made good.  Hits such as “Two Princes” and “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” define the band for many music fans, but there is a distinct musicality that runs much deeper.  That’s why it’s not surprising that the Spin Doctors’ latest effort, If The River Was Whiskey (due April 30, 2013), makes changing genres look (and sound) effortless and easy.
If you’ve ever listened to the Spin Doctors beyond the songs that took radio by storm in the early 1990’s, you would have suspected deep influences from old school blues and R&B.  Such influences are brashly confirmed on If The River Was Whiskey, a rollicking and raw blues record whose time has come.  Sparse, open arrangements and a live sound keep this record vital.  The Spin Doctors take this record wherever the muse leads them, kicking off with a Beatles-influenced blues rocker in “Some Other Man Instead”.  This will get your feet moving.  Chris Barron and the gang keep things moving with “If The River Was Whiskey”.    The band hollows out the sound for the low-key blues of “Sweetest Potion”.  The sparse arrangement and live gig sound create a moment here for the listener.
“Traction Blues” is an entertaining little sidebar that blurs the line between emotional and physical impacts of a relationship.  This one is all blame game, but done tongue-in-cheek.  The best guitar work on the album is reserved for “Scotch and Water Blues”, which has an elemental feel and rubs up against the feet of traditional blues.  The Spin Doctors settle into a comfortable groove for a few songs, churning out solid numbers such as “About A Train”, “The Drop”, “Ben’s Looking Out The Window Blues”, and the classic R&B sound of “So Bad”.  The band then kicks it over into the vibrant closer “What My Love”, which is imbued with the same swaggering energy that used to define George Thorogood’s works. 
If The River Was Whiskey isn’t a case of old dog, new tricks.  Rather, the Spin Doctors get back to the type of blues that was the pre-cursor to rock and roll.  Everyone contributes.  Eric Schenkman lays down some of the finest guitar work of his career, while Mark White and Aaron Comess keep the whole thing on track like a living heartbeat.  Vocalist Chris Barron does his part as well, singing with a passion and panache that scream “front man”.  Things do slow down a bit on the second half of the album, but the Spin Doctors prove that they are still a vital part of the popular music scene by following the very roots of rock and roll back to where they lead.
Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)
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