Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Apocalypse Blues Revue

If you are a regular reader of this little missive, by now you have probably realized that I am not a musical snob. I actually find myself listening to a variety of genres on a regular basis, but occasionally I find myself lacking in certain areas.
Like Metal for instance. I really don’t have anything against Metal, I’ve just never really been attracted to it as a regular listening pleasure. And by Metal, you know I don’t mean tubas and trumpets, but the kind of Heavy Metal music made famous by the likes of Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, and their followers.
I couldn’t pick the members of Godsmack out of a police lineup.
What’s this got to do with anything? Good question. See, a couple of members of the aforementioned Godsmack; Shannon Larkin (drums and percussion) and Tony Rombola (guitar) recently joined forces with Ray Cerbone (vocals and acoustic guitar) and Brian Carpenter (bass) to form The Apocalypse Blues Revue.
While this is a cool thing to do, it most likely would have escaped my radar completely except for two occurrences: 1) I heard a selection on Sirius Radio’s BB King’s Bluesville one day while going to my favorite record store and I jotted it down, and 2) another one of their songs appeared on a sampler disc that came with one of the blues magazines I read regularly.
When the universe hits you with two shots over two days, I’ve learned to pay attention. So, I plunked down $13.99 of my wife’s money and picked up a copy of the album. Below are my original notes from the very first time I listened to the album.
Evil Is As Evil Does starts the album off on an energetic note, but not more than most blues rock artists. They have an edge, their music is tight, and the lyrics are not darker than many of the blues classics. You have to remember, much of this genre is built upon some pretty unsettling things – lovers leaving, devil’s appearing, things like that – and this feels right at home.
They follow up with Junkie Hell, pounding drums that give way to a blistering slow guitar. I remember reading Burrough’s book Junkie when I was much younger and it really made me feel something about the life of these strung out addicts. This song came close to making me feel the same way. It’s not an easy song to listen to, but its power can’t be denied. Rombola’s guitar attacks the song and Cerbone’s vocals are expressive.
The song that came to my attention via Bluesville is Devil Plays A Strat. While it is still a heavier song than many, the musicianship is solid and Rombola’s guitar work is assured. I like the song very much and can see this one getting some air play on Time For The Blues.
I Think Not starts out with some nice gentle guitar, the acoustic provided by Cerbone and The Apocalypse Blues Revue shows they are not just one trick ponies. It’s a blues song in a more traditional vein, but listen to those lyrics, they are on a different plane, and they drive the track.
Next up is a fun number that showcases Larkin’s drums, Whiskey In My Coffee. It’s still a hard-rocking number, but the rhythm is infectious and it will get inside you quickly. We’ve featured this one on the show as a way of introducing them to our audience.
The Tower starts off with some slower, more deeply controlled guitar that builds over the drums and bass. It’s almost got a prog rock vibe, the lyrics are a little more mystical, and Larkin’s drums roll. I’m not quite sure what to make of this one – but it’s a fascinating diversion. The next song, Crossed Over, continues to pound out the music with Cerbone’s vocals almost disappearing behind the music. Along with The Tower, these form a more psychedelic portion of the album.
The Apocalypse Blues Revue (TABR) are back in more traditional territory with Blues Are Fallin’ From The Sky. There’s a bit of swing to the song and it’s easier on the ears for those of us not generally attuned to their style. The sudden shift in styles about halfway through is not really jarring, but it does make you sit up and listen closer. Nice touch.
Work In Progress starts off with a powerful drum beat that quickly launches into the rest of the band joining it. There’s some real speed to the song, almost punk in its energy and attack. Remember, this entire approach is a work in progress. So is everything else we do. Good reminder.  
There’s nothing shy nor subtle in The Devil In Me. This song puts every emotion out there and the lyrics are very strong. This is a driving, pulsing, almost living song that is a great hybrid of traditional blues morays with a modern attitude that is influenced by different approaches to music. I can see the path they are taking with this song and hope to see more. But as this is their artistic exploration, not mine, I will be interested to see any path they choose.
The next to last song on the album Blue Cross, starts off with a quiet acoustic guitar and the vocals paint some interesting pictures. That man who is coming towards us in the blue suede shoes, causes the earth to rumble and it changes the world. It’s a beautiful song that moves into some harder edge music and lyrics without losing its focus. Love it.
The only song on the album not written by the tandem that makes up The Apocalypse Blues Revue is the Bonus Track, When The Music’s Over, originally written and performed by The Doors, a group that has obviously had a major influence on TABR. It’s interesting to listen to them do a cover that keeps the spirit of the original while pushing the envelope towards their own style. Cerbone’s voice and style are so eerily reminiscent of Jim Morrison, so it’s kind of jarring to listen to it.
Okay, so it’s obvious that if you are a blues purist, you probably stopped reading this report some time back. This is the natural extension of artists like Hendrix, The Yardbirds, Cream, and The Doors, who played with the blues and mixed the genre with degrees of rock in order to find their own sound.
I wasn’t familiar with these artists prior to the release of this album, and I may not go pick up any of those earlier works, but I am fascinated by the work they have put together here and will be looking for any future releases. What direction will The Apocalypse Blues Revue take? Only time will tell.

If you’ve read this far, do yourself a favor and check out their website:

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