True to their name, Crossroads Duo is comprised of just two outstanding musicians. There are no guests on their self-titled album now available through Full Force Music. (Okay, Jennifer Dierwechter does add a sweet vocal to Tube Steak Boogie.) The two in question are Sterling Koch (pronounced “COOK”) who plays 6 and 12 string guitar, dobro, lap steel guitar, bass on three songs, and even sings his share of vocals and Jack Kulp who plays harmonica and provides vocals.
It’s about as stripped down as you can get, but the sound is old school, the kind you might have heard at an old juke joint when only a couple of guys showed up to play.
Koch and Kulp know their music very well and play from the heart as they work their way through this seven song album. One song is original (Koch’s Nothin’ But The Blues) but when you are interpreting the sounds of some of the masters like Otis Rush, John Lee Hooker, Hound Dog Taylor, Jimmy Reed, Sonny Boy Williamson II, and ZZ Top, you don’t need to add as much of your music to the mix.
The album kicks off with the Koch original, Nothin’ But The Blues and it serves as a nice invitation to their sound. If you are expecting big pyrotechnics, you will be disappointed, but if you want to hear good honest playing with some decent vocals, you’re in the right place.
Things slow down a little bit on Rush’s My Baby (She’s A Good ‘Un). Koch does the vocals while playing the strings and Kulp taking his harp out for a walk. The format allows the duo to maximize their playing by adding extended breaks.
John Lee Hooker’s Dimples gets the duo treatment with Kulp’s harmonica playing a quiet counterpoint to Koch’s vocals. Finger snaps provided the percussion and gives the song a feeling like your sitting around with a couple of world class musicians who just start jamming.
The lap steel guitar gets a workout on Hound Dog Taylor’s It’s Alright. These two have the country blues style down pat and recreate the sound as well as anybody I’ve heard play this style of blues. I wasn’t as familiar with Kulp as I was with Koch, but after listening to him play on a few songs I can state emphatically that the guy has some good chops. I want to hear what else he can do.
The duo puts a little countrified funk into Jimmy Reed and Ewart Abner Jr’s Dizzy. The number has a slower tempo but it’s full of heart and even a little vocal harmony. I would like to see this one performed live as I think it has enormous potential in front of a hot crowd.
Sonny Boy Williamson II’s Checkin’ Up On My Baby has a solid musical backbone and Koch’s vocals give it that gravel voiced approach that really sparks up the number. The guitar break trades off nicely with the harmonica and blend together to give the song a good feel.
ZZ Top’s Tube Snake Boogie is a little surprise for the album, hand claps provide the drumbeat and Koch tears into the guitars while Kulp adds harp and harmony vocals. This is a good rocker that really gets the blood pumping and the feet tapping.
Both Koch and Kulp have been around the block a few times – you don’t play with this kind of feeling if you haven’t – but I don’t know that the tour all that much out of their home state of Pennsylvania. You can find out where they will be, or even order some of their CDs from Koch’s website: http://www.sterlingkoch.com/.
If you are a fan of the more acoustic style of blues, country blues, or just good playing in general; CROSSROADS DUO is a good album to have and a great band to watch.