Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

The Flavor starts to win me over to the blues

June 28, 2011

I don’t like the blues. I’ve tried many times to appreciate the genre, and I just find myself wanting to skip on to something else. Two of my cooler friends decided that someday I might like it if I keep listening to music. I felt this was sort of like them saying, “We’ll tell you when you’re older.” Sadz.

So I was naturally a bit apprehensive when I popped in the self-titled debut disc from The Flavor. I’ve reviewed other projects from musicians in this band, and I like to follow the musicians I cover. But my cringe was not necessary. The Flavor makes blues that are appealing to non-blues fans. I would guess that blues purists would have other comments, but from a pop music standpoint, The Flavor is way entertaining.

The members of the band make it clear from the very beginning of the album that they’re out to have a good time and ensure their listeners do too. The 14-song disc opens with off-the-cuff studio banter before launching into “Hot Sauce,” which is a rollicking blues-rock tune lead by an acoustic guitar and entendre-laden lyrics. It’s a bouncy, upbeat number that’s instantly appealing.

The band’s songwriting is tight; this definitely has to do with the multiple genres that the musicians have played in. You play long enough and you realize that no matter the genre, it’s about songs with hooks. And The Flavor’s got ’em. From “The Truth” to “Short-Haired Women,” the four-piece shows that it knows its way around a melody. It’s the strength of that melodic knowlege that makes the solo sections that appear throughout the album not feel tedious. It’s also the reason why the near-seven-minute tune “Closer to You” feels solid instead of overbearing.

It’s not all perfect: “My Guitar,” even if it’s parodying songs about men who love their guitars more than their women, is too jokey. The songwriting of “Bleedin’ Soul” relies too much on vocals, and the vocalist oversings as a result.  Some of the jokes are a little on the silly side, but with how fun the music is, it can be ignored. I’d probably be drinking and dancing while listening to The Flavor, so i wouldn’t hear those bits live anyway.

But with only two real clunkers on a 14-song disc, they’ve done a great job. The recording job is to be commended, as well as the beautiful solo acoustic outro “End,” which made this folk fan’s ears perk up. (More of that, please?)

I’m really excited that I heard and enjoyed The Flavor. Maybe this release marks my entry into the world of blues. Maybe it will be yours?

Blues that won't leave you feeling blue

May 27, 2009

There’s something about the blues that speaks to everyone. Maybe it’s just part of being human to value a guitar’s raw power, or to feel something from the earthy, no-fuss qualities of blues. But whatever the reason, blues is an important American music genre, and The Teague Stefan Band’s recent release, Game of Life, is a great blues album.

There are also elements of rock and funk on Game of Life, but blues is still the most prevalent style by far. The three-piece group, with Teague Stefan on guitars and vocals, David Marder on drums, and Todd Warsing on bass, consistently delivers tight, guitar-heavy head-nodders. (Of course “head-nodders” is a word, don’t be silly!) And the best part? The scorching, uptempo momentum never falters. All throughout Game of Life, the aim is clear – The Teague Stefan Band wants you to rock with them. And I say – mission accomplished.

Game of Life opens with “The Leavin’ Blues,” an angry, bass-thumping song with a very catchy guitar riff. There’s also a guitar solo in the middle that might just melt your face if you’re not careful. In fact, it’s obvious throughout the album that Teague Stefan is a very talented guitar player.

The title track is a bit mellower, but still fits with the rest of the album’s high energy songs. Other standout tracks are the aggressive and forcefully funky “No Matter What” and the really bluesy, sexy closer “Dues.” (No, it’s not weird to call a song “sexy.”)

Fans of The Black Keys will love the minimalism of the instrumentation and fans of Led Zeppelin will appreciate the emphasis on guitar. But The Teague Stefan Band’s Game of Life would also be perfect for anyone who needs a little more tell-it-like-it-is, good old-fashioned rockin’ blues in their life. (That’s everyone.)

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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