Review: Hard Garden – Blue Yonder

Posted on: Sunday, Feb 2, 2014

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Hard Garden – Blue Yonder

(Self-release)

This album will definitely upset the purists and probably will only be of passing interest to most hard core blues fans; for the Seattle based trio Hard Garden, who are; blues guitarist / singer, Son Jack Jr. harmonica player / teacher, Michael Wilde and Garrett Williams; guitar, percussion, bass and keyboards.

They together, have engineered and produced an album that attempts to merge the blues, with electronic dance music. If my memory serves me correctly, the first time this new genre was successfully attempted, it was in 2004 by NuBlues led by Ramon Goose; now, with this new offering it is a slightly different case for the first number is a straight down the line original blues number by Son Jack which features his deeply dark bass vocals keenly matched by some lonesome and raw harmonica playing from Michael but, then we get a very interesting version of Son Houses’ “Depot”, for we hear delicate acoustic guitar paired with deep down mixed vocals and harmonica underpinned by tripping, loping, hopping percussion and drum work.

The rather sweet jingling guitar work of “Hey Now Mary”, is elegantly matched with electronic marching martial drumming and percussion but, we hit very deep water with “Papa’s in the Juke Joint”, for here we get the full urban treatment, jangling jarring guitar, dirty harmonica deeply mixed echoing vocals and the trippy, hoppy, boppy bouncing percussion. Full tilt bass percussion programming is featured on the prowling Dobro led and harmonica interjecting “Dangerous”, giving it full dance floor menace.

“The Valley”, is a dark, sombre slowburning tale of a violent father and suicidal mother, which has echoes of The Doors and Nick Cave. “Maximum Insecurity”, involves black-humoured tales concerning inmate treatment in Cook County Jail, it mixes tripping bass drums and percussion with harmonica and Dobro delta swamp blues. “Showtime”, is an inventive trippy funk tribute to James Brown, while the remixed “Dangerous”, is simply a denser deeper mixed, bass percussion driven dance floor hopper.

Lastly there is the monologue “Pour Me Another”, which is a long drawn out dog joke that is spoken in a London English accent over a dub Dobro and harmonica backing.  This is an intriguing musical / spoken assortment of tunes, there is as they say something for everyone. Only when H.G. further tightens their musical focus can a more definitive opinion be given.

Fascinating!

BRIAN HARMAN

www.hardgardenmusic.com

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