Modern electric blues can get a bad rep at times. And it’s no wonder, when high falutin’ studios attempt to polish the guts and soul out of the raw recording or when some loser takes the notion that he’s the second coming of Clapton. So having considered the above and more, it was nice to hear “Hatchet Blues”, the latest release from the Massachusetts-based Mike Hallal Band.
While - wisely - avoiding a political tinge on the album overall, “World’s a Place” takes lyrical strength from Barack Obama’s book, “Dreams From My Father”. An unusual source of inspiration, surely, but the song itself is just funky enough to work. Showing considerable knowledge of old-time blues, revised versions of “Poor Me” and “Doctor Blues” (by Charlie Patton and Henry Townsend respectively) grace this album while “Outside Woman Blues”, popularised by Cream, is also given favourable treatment.
The title track takes on an almost tribal sincerity, a slow-burning rumination on revenge by way of the blues. Around the halfway mark, we hear a little of Hamlet, further proving that this band are not short on influences. Hallal’s co-conspirators on this release are Chris Schluntz on lead guitar, Robert DeCorte on bass, Jim Antonelis on drums, and Doug Batchelder with additional instruments and vocals. Hallal’s voice is distinctive enough and, while the raw musicianship to be heard is consistently pleasing, Schluntz’s tone in particular stands out.
It’s a common understanding that the blues existed as, among other things, a platform for the afflicted to scowl at the wrongs that exist in the world. Indeed, it seems that the Mike Hallal band require no tutoring on what it means to play the blues. Of course, my word alone is not enough! You need the CD!