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Joe Cassady and the West End Band - The 47th Problem

The 47th Problem

Joe Cassady and
the West End Band

Available from CD Baby.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

Joe Cassady kicks off The 47th Problem with a thunderous hi-energy title half typical of the disc, although his singing, being of the folk persuasion, isn't quite up to the song's demands. Someone, either him or Shu Nakamura (I suspect the latter), knows how to crunch and wail on lead guitar, though, and more than a few rivetheads are going to be jealous of the track's hooks and chords. On Thin Ice, Cassady backs off into what's much more his vocal forte: bluesy folk-rockin' bleeding over into rock & roll.

The packaging for 47th Problem is superb, a quadra-fold extravaganza featuring Justin Masi's great cartooning pregnant with symbolism and existentialist angst mirroring and metaphorically exceeding Cassady's lyrics. Beirut Boogie sparks back up with a slide guitar and the title cut's chunky rhythms. Find My Way Home, however, places Cassady back in his element, almost jug-oriented in its Appalachian feel, his backing band bedding him down with a chaw of terbacky and a generous applejack sway. Willie Mays is a lament laden song with more killer guitar work atop moody forward motion, a mini-saga rich and satisfying.

The production here is quite good, spacious on the mellow numbers, very well layered in the complex rockers, everything supporting the guy's writing, but his singing is the weakest element of an otherwise very catchy release. Too often, his vocal timbre is a bit weak and unconfident, not full-throated and sometimes flat, not to mention lacking tremolo when that's very much wanted. His real milieu is a bayou backwoods threnody, not chart burners, though the band's more than capable of both. Listen to Big Wave and hear precisely what I mean. Cassady's in his element there, so either he's going to have to switch fortes or bring in another vocalist (hint: the band is superb in their backing vocals, so maybe…) if he wants to continue to vend leonine rock and roll and remain authentic.

Track List:

  • 47th Problem
  • Thin Ice
  • Beirut Boogie
  • Find My Way Home
  • Willie Mays
  • The Only Thing
  • G3 Blues
  • Big Wave
  • Joshua
  • Heavy Poems
  • 9th Floor

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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