Friday, September 29, 2006

Soledad Brothers - The Hardest Walk (Alive)

The Onion AV Club
Onion Rating: B+

“Detroit's Soledad Brothers started life as one of those bluesy guitar-and-drum duos that seem to spring up like weeds in local garage-rock scenes, and though they've since added another guitarist and the occasional guest player, Soledad Brothers still cling to the raw, rootsy sound that stripped-down duos do best.”

* In one sentence, they give not only the history, but also an update as to what they are now and a clue as to what the band sounds like.

“The Soledads grapple with self-consciousness, and overcome it whenever they slip music past their own heads and into their bones.”

* Simple and direct conclusion.

Quality brief review. It’s nice when writers are forced to be economical and brief with their thoughts – most of the time, it turns out for the best. They do a good job of running through the release they’re reviewing, but I would always like to see some talk about past releases, especially when you’re talking about a band that has had four previous albums. However, space was obviously limited – no harm done to the reader.

Review Rating: 83%


The Washington Post
Writer: Mark Jenkins

“The band's new album, "The Hardest Walk," features four players -- only three officially Soledad sibs -- and a style that employs the blues as a foundation rather than as a straitjacket.”

* Wonderful statement that tells the reader which way the band goes in this subgenre that has a 50% success (or failure) rate.

“The brief "White Jazz" suggests that the band has even been listening to Albert Ayler, or at least the first MC5 album.”

* Offshoot information or insight is always appreciated by a knowledgeable reader and music fan.

It’s a preview review for a concert, so it’s short, but it does its job and would intrigue anyone who didn’t know the band – maybe even enough to put them in line at the concert.

Review Rating: 74%


Rolling Stone
Writer: Lauren Gitlin
RS Rating: 3 stars

“At their best, Soledad Brothers recall the Rolling Stones when Mick and Keith were fresh-faced bluesheads in the mid-Sixties: The prolific Detroit foursome kicks out solid, harmonica-laced blues riffs without sounding derivative or cheesily nostalgic.”

* I like the reference, and we kind of get the idea, but this misplaces the band, and isn’t very accurate, as the Soledad Brothers’ diversity in sound is more late 60s, early 70s Stones (especially Exile era).

“Meet the Motor City's newest hitmakers.”

* Again, we get the point, but the band isn’t new, and if you want to introduce them as “hitmakers,” do a longer review on them.

Big and bold, but brief and no support for the statements. What’s really sad (for RS) is that I must say it’s good to see Rolling Stone show some support for such an unknown band. So, in that sense, this review is wonderful.

Review Rating: 65%


Conclusion From Reviews:
This is an album to pick up – everyone is satisfied with it or raving about it. However, as stated, it would be nice to hear about who the Soledad Brothers are and what they have done until now. They’re said to be bluesy, but not completely, offering a variety of sounds and styles.

The Soledad Brothers started as a duo known as Henry & June, who had one release (Goin’ Back to Memphis) and consisted of Johnny Walker (singer/guitar) and Ben Swank (percussion). They added Oliver Henry around 2002 as an official third Soledad Brother. Several unofficial Soledad Brothers have contributed to the albums, including Meg White (White Stripes), Patrick Pantano (The Dirtbombs), Mr. David Viner, and currently, multi-instrumentalist, Dechman. Interesting tidbits related to these guys: Johnny Walker is rumored to have taught Jack White how to play slide guitar, Ben Swank has a song named after him – “Been Swank” by The Von Bondies, and Oliver Henry was once Brian Olive from The Greenhornes – and was dismissed from the band after an on-stage brawl with lead singer Craig Fox.

Gossip aside, Soledad Brothers got much buzz early on due to some touring with The White Stripes, as well as their debut album’s liner notes being written by MC5 manager, John Sinclair. They’ve also played as a back up band for Mr. David Viner. Starting with two phenomenal and practically overlooked albums on Estrus (Soledad Brothers, Steal Your Soul and Dare Your Spirit to Move), they moved on to Dim Mak for a live album, and then to Sanctuary with their fourth, Voice of Treason, before releasing The Hardest Walk on Alive here in 2006.

Found Soledad Brothers Tracks:
Downtown Paranoia Blues (The Hardest Walk)
The Elucidator (Voice of Treason)
Break ‘Em On Down (Steal Your Soul…)
Front St. Front (Soledad Brothers)

Additional Listening:
Henry and June – Goin’ Back to Memphis
Mr. David Viner – Sally Jay

Good Feeling
Handle Song

No comments: