Yow! This guy is waaaay on the down-low, cranking out dirty white blues like no one's business! From the outset, the hallowed memory of Stevie Ray comes crashing through the speakers in band leader Mato Nanji's resonant voice and highly distorted blocked-out chords played in prime 70s rolls of thunder and grit. Each song is a slow progression, measured and dustily refined in its period authenticity, sporting vivid style and Hendrixy lead fills. But there's also the sense of ZZ Top present in a lumbering bottom line and anvil-heavy gravity. "Number Nine Train" especially demonstrates this when Nanji takes on Billy Gibbons' slightly higher singing register.
Some time back, there was a righteous indie band down in Texas, Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat, which delivered the goods in this same fashion but found itself doomed, unfortunately, to obscurity despite genre superiority. Hanji, hopefully, will not suffer the same fate, residing as he does in the immortal Vanguard house, a label which has showcased great talent for...what is it now, half a century? In him, they've snagged another winner. The band's sobriquet is "Indigenous", and if the gents haven't captured the full flavor of what has became a period transatlantic style then such a thing doesn't exist.
It may be instructive to consider that statement. As ethnomusicological inquiry shows, blues derived from a combination of white and black modes, manifesting in America first through a downtrodden ex-slave population, quickly picked up by whites who chiefly soft-sold the style. African-Americans struck back by raising the ante with Albert Collins, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, and numerous others funking up the oeuvre until the Brits got ahold of it in the 60s, wringing unholy bejeezus from it, especially in the person of Fleetwood Mac's Peter Green -- in this critic's opinion, the greatest blues guitarist, bar none.
Hanji revisits that period in a boulder-basic smokin' ten-spot of solidly slo-rockin' burners. T.S. McPhee, Stan Webb, Kim Simmonds, and the erstwhile lords of the English blues scene would have to smile wistfully on hearing the set. Few modern bands have companioned it to any degree: The Hoax, The Homewreckers, perhaps The London Quireboys (sitting more on the Faces side of the house). Blues' sun is slowly sinking after having enjoyed a pleasantly long-ish modern revival, but the form will never die. It's much too riveted in the world's psyche and consciousness as an imperishable form of lament music. The style can't be undercut and all attempts to stretch it too far only result in a return to a set of basics, open to anyone who can drink down the psychedelic swampwater and remain on his feet.
If Chicken Shack, Savoy Brown, and the Groundhogs found themselves spinning on your teen-aged turntable back in the day, Indigenous composes itself as a return to former glories lustily bent to stoke the embers of a fire that refuses to dim amidst a welter of radio rockers catering to transient hungers never satisfied.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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