The promo lit tells me this ensemble is a Memphis-driven unit and, sure enough, it is, but there are distinct echoes of the 60s San Francisco enclave, most notably seen in Stoneground and Tower of Power, that carried the tang in their own distinctive ways. Free World, to these ears, is more like them. That's both good and…not-as-good. Give It Back is a slice of chunky funky monkey, upbeat and quirky, but the follower, Time on the Mountain waxes too Sons of Champlin-ish, a group could be fairly mediocre fairly often. A huge point of attraction, though, is Brian Overstreet and his mutable guitar, now blazingly hot, now laid back and sassy, then lazily delta buzzy.
More than a little soul pervades the ensemble (Down on the Bluff) tinged by a Taj Mahal-ish folk sense. The mellowly jazzy instrumental Samurai gives the horns elbow room but Monkey Suit starts out by lighting a match under Overstreet and then, late in the song, cuts him loose to wail, and, hoo-boy!, can that cat play when given his head, a several time occurrence that sets the CD aglow amid fire and heat.
From the Bluff is mostly very good material a few times caught by lackluster cuts but withal brimming with an elder days vibe that's worthy in and of its own. I mentioned Stoneground and Tower of Power a couple paragraphs ago, and I'll very happily listen to these guys over those any day of the week, but this CD tells me Free World hasn't scaled its own heights yet. A bit more concentration in the guitar and horns and they'll have it. I'm waiting for someone to do for this sound what the first few Mother's Finest LPs did for rock funk, and this just might be the band to finally accomplish that. They're awfully close already.
Oh, and will someone puh-leeze knock off this "bonus cut" nonsense. Geez, we're well past the Mad Ave. overkill stage in CDs by now. I don't mean to pick on these guys for it, but it's gotta stop somewhere, so I'm beginning here. Unless a disc is a re-issue, there's no such thing as a "bonus cut". C'mon. Besides, the disc is a generous near-hour long—the "bonus cut" gimmick's unnecessary.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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