Various Artists – Alive at the Deep Blues Fest
Down and dirty outsider rock
Artist: Various Artists
Record Title: Alive at the Deep Blues Fest
Label: Alive Naturalsound Records (Alive Naturalsound 0137-1)
Genre: Rock/Blues Rock
Format: LP (BBQ Red vinyl, 33 RPM)
Release Year: 2012
Misc: Insert w/ photos, band and song information; download code w/ bonus songs
Grade: Music: B+ / Package: A-
The Deep Blues Festival is an annual “alternative and outsider blues festival,” which takes place in Bayport, Minnesota (near Duluth, about 2 ½ hours north of the Twin Cities, according to my mother-in-law who lives in Minneapolis). The most recent edition of the festival went down from June 29 – July 1, 2012, featuring nearly three-dozen bands and all you can eat BBQ. For those of us who couldn’t be in attendance, Alive Naturalsound Records has issued seven of the festival’s best performances (13 on the CD and MP3 download) on a quite tastefully packaged “BBQ Red” 12″ record. Drop the needle on side A and brace yourself for 35 (or so) minutes of blistering rock.
The first thing I noticed when the sounds began booming from my speakers is the clear, punchy recording. All the instruments and vocals are mixed pretty evenly, but thankfully it’s not a spotlessly clean recording. On the contrary, you can virtually feel the grit and see the sweat flying from the stage. Of course, a perfect recording wouldn’t mean much without the music to match, and I’m happy to report the music here is more than up to the challenge.
Those familiar with Alive’s potent roster of artists will need no introduction to many of these bands, and trying to pick a standout from the assembled talent is a fruitless exercise. Every band delivers in their own way, but some really memorable moments come courtesy of Radio Moscow’s Parker Griggs’ guitar pyrotechnics. I’ve said it before and, what the heck, I’ll say it again — Radio Moscow are the closest thing we have in the second decade of the 21st Century to The Jimi Hendrix Experience. That statement may sound like hyperbole to the uninitiated, but go see them live and your mind will be thoroughly melted. Their recording here gives you a strong taste of what to expect.
If I was sequencing this record, Buffalo Killers are the exact band I’d place in the lead off spot, and they don’t disappoint with their 9-minute extended version of “It’s a Shame.” What makes this band unique is their effortless ability to switch between laid back and menacing, often times in the course of the same song, but “It’s a Shame” definitely carries more of the latter atmosphere. Special guest Mark Holder adds some inspired harmonica work to make for an all-around great starting point.
Brian Olive’s contribution, “Traveling,” is a raw version of its atmospheric studio counterpart, but doesn’t lose anything in the catchiness department. Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires offer up a passionate take on the title track of their most recent album, “There is a Bomb in Gilead.” Mark Holder returns to add harmonica to Left Lane Cruiser’s chaotic stew on “Rambling on My Mind” — frenzied, overpowering stuff. Henry’s Funeral Shoe and John the Conqueror round out the record with excellent performances of their own.
Speaking of John the Conqueror, the trio make excellent front cover models, captured during their set in a glorious full color photograph. The insert features a collage of photos (both in color and black & white), which shows the event’s participants on and off stage. Also included on the insert is band personnel and song info — don’t be fooled, the insert lists all songs on the record, as well those which can only be found on the download (and CD). Topping it all off is the eye-catching BBQ Red vinyl I previously mentioned.
If you appreciate raw, passionate, soulful rock with an edge, you can’t go wrong with this record (or any of the compiled bands’ individual releases). In fact, this is the rare live album that I actually think works well as an introduction to all the bands. Of course, existing fans will find this record to be a great treat. I usually think of live records as novelty pieces, but “Alive at the Deep Blues Fest” has much substance to go along with the style. It’s provided a down and dirty soundtrack to my holiday season.
1.) Buffalo Killers w/ Mark Holder – “It’s a Shame”
2.) Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires – “There is a Bomb in Gilead”
3.) John the Conqueror – “Three More”
1.) Radio Moscow – “Hold on Me”
2.) Brian Olive – “Travelling”
3.) Left Lane Cruiser w/ Mark Holder & Jim Diamond – “Rambling on my Mind”
4.) Henry’s Funeral Shoe – “Henry’s Funeral Shoe”
Tags: Alive Natural Sound Records, Bayport, Brian Olive, Buffalo Killers, Deep Blues Fest, Henry's Funeral Shoe, Jim Diamond, John the Conqueror, Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires, Left Lane Cruiser, Mark Holder, MN, Radio Moscow