An intriguing album arrived recently from a Los Angeles-based band that I had never heard of before. You probably get tired of reading that opening sentence, but it just goes to show how many great bands are out there and may not be on any of our radars.
The band is the Forty Fours, and for this album, their fourth, they have titled it Twist The Knife. The group consists of Johnny Main on guitar and vocals; Eric Von Herzen on harmonica; Mike Hightower on bass; Gary Ferguson on drums; and Junior Watson on guitar.
It’s available on Rip Cat and it’s going to appeal to just about everyone. They play one original and have selected seven others from major artists to cover. But these are not just slavish note-for-note covers, they put their own imprint on the songs.
The band gets rolling on the first song, Cuttin’ Deep, a funky gritty instrumental that gives everybody a chance to show off a little bit. Sweet guitar runs lay over an infectious groove. It’s obvious that the band members are strong musicians. My interest is already piqued.
They follow up with Sugar You, a slower blues groove that’s the kind of song that starts some serious grinding on the dance floor. If the previous song was gritty, this one is downright dirty. I like this one a lot and am already looking for a place to share it with you.
Next up is a cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s song, Howlin’, complete with an attempt at Wolf’s unique voice. It’s a nice homage, but actually a little softer, gentler, than the original. Still, it’s one of the songs that nearly every band performs and The Forty Fours do a damn fine version.
If you’re going to cover Wolf, you may as well cover Muddy Waters. The guys deliver a strong version of Champagne And Reefer. Nobody can pull off Wolf and Waters completely but they do a good job on both. I would love to catch them live as both songs have got to go over well.
Von Herzen’s harp kicks off Lightnin’ Hopkins’ Too Many Drivers. This is a great interpretation that’s a real crowd pleaser. I’ll be adding it to an upcoming show and talking up the guys. I suspect that they have got to be an amazing live band and hope they’ll have a chance to get out on the road.
Doyle Bramhall II’s Rosie is next with some rock blues on the edgy side. By now the band has shown that they are adept at several different styles of blues. No matter what style you prefer, these guys deliver.
Some more great harp opens their cover of Helsinki Blues. This is a fun one, a bit of a shouter and gets the blood pumping. This is one that should be receiving some serious airplay on every blues show around the world. Count it playing on one in our area.
They close out the album with T-Bone Walker’s 44’s Shuffle. Perfectly named for the group and perfectly delivered by the group. Great cover and they have some fun while playing it.
I know I’m late to the party as this is the Forty Fours’ fourth album (that’s a lot of fours to type) and the first one in my collection. I can guarantee it won’t be the last. Twist The Knife is a good album to have, it covers most of the bases, and is a pleasure to listen to. I only wish it were a little longer, at 33 minutes, it merely whets my appetite for more!