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CD REVIEW: Ten Foot Pole Cats - Sterno Soup
By Chip Withrow - 05/26/2008 - 10:51 AM EDT

Artist: Ten Foot Pole Cats
Album: Sterno Soup
Genre: Blues/Roots Rock
Sounds Like: Howlin' Wolf, early ZZ Top
Technical Grade: 9/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 9/10
Overall Talent Level: 9/10
Songwriting Skills: 9/10
Performance Skill: 9/10
Best Songs: Goin' Crazy, Dead Shrimp, Work Me
CD Review: Ten Foot Pole Cats’ Sterno Soup is just about what I think of when I think of blues – stripped down, snaky, and soul-stirring. This is music that can give you hoodoo chills and make you get up and boogie, often in the same song.

Recorded live in the studio with no overdubs, Sterno Soup is crisper-sounding than the seminal blues which inspired it, but still urgent and immediate. The standard “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” is a fitting opener, a nod to the decades of history behind this sound. It rises and falls in intensity – Jim Chilson’s wicked guitar picking pushes Jay Scheffler’s vocal to growling heights and confessional depths.

Because there is no bassist in this trio, Dave Darling’s crackling, persistent drumming drives the band. Because of Darling, the pulsing “Goin’ Crazy” sounds like a Howlin’ Wolf number set to a Sun Records rockabilly swing.

“Thought I Heard” is creepy, bumping and grinding – Chilson’s slippery, minimalist guitar floats like a ghost around this one. Then comes the rocking blast of “Dead Shrimp,” one of the straight-ahead grooviest songs I’ve heard in awhile. Chilson’s careening solos inspired me to try to play along. The weird lyrics (and the “woo” that Scheffler tosses in) makes me think Little Richard could have torn this one up in his heydey.

“Work Me” is blues bordering on soul, hypnotic and sexy - think a grittier version of the sound ZZ Top achieved on their classic "I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide." And just like that, this five-song EP is over, doing just what it should – making me want to hear more. (And, therefore, I go back and listen to "Work Me" again.)

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