Artist: The Rounders
Label: Blind Pig Records
Genre: Blues/Roots Rock
Sounds Like: Creedence, Los Lobos, Allmans
Technical Grade: 10/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 9/10
Overall Talent Level: 9/10
Songwriting Skills: 8/10
Performance Skill: 10/10
Best Songs: Oh My Dear Mind, You Know Better Than That
The first time I listened to this disc, I was reminded of the rush I got when I heard “Don’t Worry Baby” jump off Los Lobos’ How Will the Wolf Survive.
“God Knows I’m Trying” is the arresting first track on the Rounders’ Wish I Had You. It’s a snaky, bluesy rocker, and the rest of the album lives up to its promise.
When it comes to blues- or roots-based rock, you can argue that since there’s not much new left to do, the mark of a good band is how it appropriates influences. On Wish I Had You, I hear shades of Los Lobos, Creedence, and the Allman Brothers - and those are three of my all-time favorites.
The title track that follows “God Knows” is a straight-up rocker in the Creedence tradition. The twin lead guitars of Ryan Taylor and Michael Stone give this song muscle. Then on the funky “My Getaway,” the guys break out wicked slide guitar – it’s also the track on which I really noted the richness of Brian Whitten’s soulful baritone.
“You Know Better Than That” is brilliant – sparkling, dueling guitars in the Allman Brothers style, a swooping bass line from Dave Spindle, and Stuart Williamson’s rock-solid drumming. If you’re a fan of drumming, also check out “Oh Why” (which also has cool rockabilly guitars).
The brilliant “Oh, My Dear Mind” is so different from the rest of the album – poppy in a ‘60s folk kind of way, bouncy yet mournful, and lyrically dense (and Whitten’s voice soars as he wraps it around these words). And when the slide guitar chimes in over at the spiraling end of the song, it creates a moment I wish would last a lot longer.
The Rounders can get heavy, as they do on “Through No Fault of My Own” and, even more thunderously, on “Let Me Talk At You.” “Talk,” with its Deep Purple-meets-ZZ Top power, is an awesome driving song.
The guys get down to some straight blues (Chicago Style) on the raveup “Wait for Me,” with guest Dustin Arbuckle blowing harp. “Wait” is one of many reasons I really want to catch a Rounders gig. “It Wasn’t My Baby” is another great nod to the blues tradition, yet made unique with a jazzy rhythm guitar riff.
The Rounders happen to be steeped in the blues, but Wish I Had You is mainly darn fine rock and roll, and it leaps out of the speakers to grab you.