It’s been great making some friends in the music field in Canada. We’ve been sampling a number of artists who rarely make it into our neighborhood, and we’re grateful for the influx of new blood into the business.
Recently, I received a copy of a CD from the Gary Cain Band, and I had never heard the group before. I quickly discovered that this CD, Twangadelic Bluesophunk was their debut album. Now I didn’t feel quite so uninformed.
Reading up on Cain, I discovered quickly that he had been a student of the guitar since he was in grade school and had a deep love for a variety of music. He graduated from a top-flight music school and was making a living playing in Dubai when a vocal injury sidelined him for several months.
That brief holiday helped him focus his energies and he began to crystallize the sound he wanted to create when he played. Teaming up with drummer Donnie McDougall and bassist Tom Nagy, who also had backgrounds in different forms of music, he created the Gary Cain Band and began tackling gigs in their native Canada. Along the way he wrote all of the songs the group recorded for this album.
On my God, can this guy play a guitar! The first song on the album, Live Wire, doesn’t start, it explodes! Cain and Company have the energy of punk rock with the musical chops of musicians who have been playing together for years. His vocals are a little tricky to pick up through the machine effect that treats them, but it’s still very cool.
The next song, Pipes And Spoons, starts out with a heavy hand. We get a better chance to hear Cain’s actual voice on this song. You can hear the metal influence in the band’s approach. It still has a ton of energy and it demonstrates the many different influences on the band members.
Some very cool retro funk opens Thought I Heard You Say. Cain has a sure hand for the guitar and his rhythm section is tight so the music is good. The vocals are processed and it adds kind of a distant feel to them. Once he gets to the guitar break, he’s on solid ground and he delivers a smoking run.
No Foolin’ follows with some more strong guitar, bass, and drums. Cain has a decent voice, but this is the third song out of four where it sounds more processed than natural. It’s not autotuned, it just sounds like he’s singing through more effects than are called for. Still, his guitar playing is among the best I’ve heard and that’s where he’s placed his focus on this album.
Up next is Write You A Letter, a little more funk and soul. He seems a little more relaxed on his vocals and the choppy guitar delivers musically. It’s a decent number, and one that would be great live. He follows up with the instrumental, Twang Strut. That’s where these guys really shine. Very few bands could keep up with them in straight up playing, and here it’s the musical equivalent of a hot rod race. It’s exciting, and the music just runs flat out. It’s rockabilly, it’s country twang, it’s a great song.
Okay, here’s where it gets tricky. The next two songs are different than what is labeled on the album. It may say that this song is Last Dance, and it has explicit lyrics, but, it’s actually Got Me Where You Want Me, and the lyrics are fine. It reminds me a little of Edgar Winter’s Frankenstein in the opening. It’s a good song with a metal backbone. Cain shreds his guitar and McDougal and Nagy lay down a solid backbeat.
Now we get Last Dance, and its explicit lyrics. You can hear more of the metal influence in Cain’s playing and singing. Now, for any of my fellow radio show hosts, the word in question is on George Carlin’s list of Seven Words you can’t say on the air, so listen before you play. On a personal note, I think it just adds to the attitude of the singer presenting the song, so express yourself any way you want. I won’t be able to play it, but in your home or car, crank it up!
It’s back to normal now, I promise. The next song, Girl’s Too Rich, has some of the most intricate guitar playing on the album, and that’s saying something. Cain and Company maintain that frenetic pace, I don’t know how they do it, I’m exhausted just listening to them. This is the story of what can happen when you date someone with those expensive tastes and you don’t have that kind of budget.
They close the album with an instrumental, Faith Healer. This starts out as a power ballad with some heavenly guitar. Cain has repeatedly demonstrated that he belongs in the category of guitar wizard and this gives him a chance to show he can handle a slow deliberate number and put plenty of emotion into the strings. He can play the hell out of a guitar, and I can’t wait to see what comes along down the road.
This is the debut album for the Gary Cain Band and I found it to be exciting. Having said that, I recognize that there are some issues with it and many pure blues fans might not agree with my assessment. It’s kind of a controversial subject these days as to the direction the blues industry is taking.
Keep in mind that Cain tells us in the title of the album, Twangadelic Bluesophunk, that he is not beholden to just one style or genre of music. When you listen, you can hear all of these influences converging and trying to coexist within his delivery. Sometimes one style wins out over the others, but there are till elements of all of them scattered throughout the album.
Do your research. You can check them out on the web at http://www.garycainband.com/, and there are several samples of their work on YouTube. If you like what you see and hear, you can find the album at just about all of the usual places. And if you live north of the border, you can probably catch them live. If they ever head down into the states, I’ll be watching for ‘em.