Voo Davis likes to take him an unusual path to the blues, yes he does. This becomes screamingly clear in the intro section of One for the Habit, One for the Road, the first cut. He and the band craft a burning build-up that explodes into the song proper, kinda like Foghat and West, Bruce & Laing did a coupla times long ago. And when Calvin Conway lets rip on that harp of his, don't stand too close or you're going to come away with badly singed ears. That cat doesn't play by the rules. Then the B-3 steps in as Voo wrangles a mean convoluted gee-tar, and—damn, son!—you're in for a time. 'Course, the boys know how to lay back, too, and Phantom Woman slinks in for several shots of whiskey in a sequin dress as the neon lights come up, Jon Wade switching to a piano as would make Bruce Hornsby jealous, Davis cool as ice, bass and drums punctuating the atmospherics, everyone getting misty-eyed and soulful…until Davis goes nuts in the middle eight. Good God, but that sonofabitch can play! Alvin Lee checked out too early, dammit, 'cause he'd love what's happenin' here.
The engineering job on Vicious Things is highly unusual as well, strangely but brilliantly balanced to squeeze out as raw a tableau as could be wrought without interfering with the often boggling instrumental interplay. I at first was caught at loggerheads but then realized "No, man, that's fucking perfect!" 'cause it's hard as hell to re-create a natural sound in a studio. Musically, even on an acoustic axe, Davis just takes control (Waiting on that Day), and that, too, needs to be wrestled with. What engineer Ben Mumphrey did was re-create exactly what I used to hear at The Whiskey A Go Go in the 70s by bands similar in nature to this one (Pure Food and Drug Act, John Mayall, Madura, etc.), when the going was raucous and zesty.
Everything on Vicious was written by Voo, and his influences range from R.L. Burnside to Jimi Hendrix, so he's much disciplined on the composition side of the house. Nonetheless, once he gets that guitar in his hands, stand back, 'cause boundaries don't exist, and the shades-bedecked gent's a natural wildman. Everthing in his percolating heart comes pouring out hot as lava, wrapping around the room, catching everyone and everything up in its embrace. When that's not happening, he turns to modes like the hard-gospel Big Lie and elsewhere. A couple short instrumentals punctuate the flow of things, but I sure wish he'd let 'em run…not that he needs to, but, dammit!, we need that! But there's a ton of sophistication here that one CD isn't sufficient to showcase, even as overflowing as it is; thus, as soon as you've consumed Vicious, you're hungry for more, and that's a good damn thing.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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