What little exposure I’ve had to Gary Hoey in the past has been pleasant. I’ve heard a couple of his albums and always enjoyed his blues rock guitar and his rough vocals. So when his most recent release, Dust & Bones, showed up as part of a package I received from his label, I couldn’t wait to dive into it and see what he’s been working on.
I was not disappointed. In fact, I was delighted to hear that he’s not only delivered on some great blues, but also mixed in a liberal selection of rock, and even some country and funk. He’s working with just two other musicians on the album, Matt Scurfield on drums and AJ Pappas on bass, but they manage to create a sound that could be from a much larger band.
The always wonderful Lita Ford adds her vocals to one song, but other than that, it’s just the three men making all the music. Hoey even stretches his songwriting chops by penning all 11 songs on the album.
Such an old-school song starts the album. Boxcar Blues is a great throwback and has an amazing sound. Starting with solo some steel guitar before moving into a heavier musical approach. Hoey’s vocals have that strained feeling of somebody whose singing is straight from the gut.
Next up is the up-tempo Who’s Your Daddy. There are some nimble fingers on the guitar for this one. The lyrics are clever and kind of scary at the same time. This is a wild song, and I bet it’s great live. I love the rockabilly swing.
They keep the pace quick with Born To Love You, a solid rocker with some scorching guitar work. Three songs in, three different styles shown. For a trio, these guys have a great ability to showcase a variety of musical approaches. They may not be exclusively blues, but they can sure play.
Hoey and Company follow up with the title track, Dust & Bones. It’s a slower paced, deliberate blues number with some soaring guitar. The song builds beautifully and the lyrics have a very cool imagery. There’s plenty of rock in the approach, and the whole thing comes together well.
Next is the very cool and intense Steamroller, which is a tribute to the immortal Johnny Winter. Some very good guitar work plays over an intense rhythm put down by Scurfield and Pappas. This one will be on Time For The Blues and probably just about every blues show around.
The one musical guest on the album, Lita Ford, adds her vocals to the duet portion of Coming Home. The song has a blues country feel to it and features some of Hoey’s best vocal work. The harmony with Ford is lovely and this is a very sweet song.
They pick up the intensity with the heavy rocking number, Ghost Of Yesterday. The distorted guitar gives the song an otherworldly feel. It’s a powerful song, especially following the previous number. This Time Tomorrow starts off with a slow ominous feeling. This is the singer baring his soul through a mix of words and sound. He’s pulling all the painful emotion he can out and you get the feeling that he’s hit bottom, accepted his fate and taking what action he can in order to move forward.
Hoey starts swinging with the more lighthearted Back Up Against The Wall. Even though the lyrics have that darker edge to them, the music itself seems like some serious fun. Hoey’s voice doesn’t have that edge that he has used on several other songs, and his guitar work is excellent.
Hoey takes us back to the swamp on Blind Faith, a down home country blues number that pulls out all the stops. The rhythm section lays down a strong backbone and Hoey’s guitar sings while his vocals tell the story of pain and betrayal. Excellent song. This is another one that should be getting a lot of airplay.
The album concludes with Soul Surfer a funky rocking instrumental with some lovely guitar work. This one really showcases another side of the musicians and allows everyone one last trip through the spotlight. I like the mood it creates and it truly caps off a great album.
Gary Hoey explores a number of different sounds to create his own unique brand. He’s been making excellent albums for a number of years, but on Dust & Bones, I really feel like he’s made an exciting breakthrough. He has a mastery of the music, and with his stripped down, three-man approach, he’s come up with a sound that’s lean and strong.
Be sure to watch for his appearances as he’s always in demand for tours and festivals. You can find out all the information you need at http://garyhoey.com/, as well as check out his previous albums. I recommend this one highly, but be forewarned that the mixing of sounds may not work for blues purists. As for me, I like the mix very much and look forward to seeing what he does next.