CD REVIEW: Jam-Lab - Gain
By Chip Withrow - 11/28/2008 - 01:59 PM EST
Artist: Band: Jam-Lab
Sounds Like: Allman Brothers, Flecktones, Hendrix
Technical Grade: 9/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 10/10
Songwriting Skills: 9/10
Performance Skill: 9/10
Best Songs: On the Other Hand, Gain, Back in Black, Dustbowl Politics, The Ocho
Hearty helpings of funk, reggae, jazz, and metal and tasty sides of folk and world are on the menu this day after Thanksgiving, served – usually within the same song – by the Michigan instrumental trio Jam-Lab on its new album Gain.
“Sideira” is the syncopated, reggae-fied opener, followed by the Allmans-like jazz-rock powerhouse “On the Other Hand.” This disc is nicely mixed, and the title cut is a fine example – James Carr’s searing guitar work is out front, but John Austin’s interesting six-string bass lines and Mike Curtis’ crisp drumming figure prominently.
Carr’s fretwork dances flamenco-style on the aptly titled “Half and Half,” which is half rock-steady groove and half atmospheric-yet-percolating jazz. “The Ocho” offers another dose of exotica, this time mixed in with Hendrix-style bluesy funk.
The experimental jazz-funk cover of AC/DC’s “Back in Black” is well worth checking out – Carr’s faithful rendering of Angus Young’s leads are a reminder of what a good player Young is. Carr mines some more metal riffs, and Curtis kicks up some thunder, on “Hail to the King,” which ends with power-pop majesty.
“Dustbowl Politics” and the set-closing "And the Results are In" are melodic, often-pretty changes of pace. On "Dustbowl," Carr’s guitar layers demand a closer listen (there’s a nifty acoustic interlude), while Austin’s and Curtis’ rhythm bubbles and simmers. The album’s other cover, Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” has a jangling, spacey jam-band vibe, and Austin’s swooping bass is a treat.
At first, I found myself wondering what these guys would sound like with extra players like an organist and/or saxophonist. I think it’s an idea worth exploring, but Jam-Lab’s Gain stands up excellently on its own merits.
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