“’Bout a year I was playin’ the blues / My name is still unknown,” sings Dave Weld on “Ramblin’,” the second tune on Burnin’ Love. That’s not likely to change based on the rather tepid contents on offer. Weld’s an accomplished guitarist, but the Imperial Flames rarely rise above workmanlike, and while the sincerity’s there, there’s nothing particularly distinguished about anything on this collection.
In part it’s due to rather unremarkable songs that never stray from twelve-bar convention but don’t add anything to the canon, either. And despite the presence of the always exuberant Lil’ Ed on slashing slide guitar, the music never really catches fire. Even the tenor sax of veteran Abb Locke sounds thin, like a horn section without the section.
Weld delivers lines like “Keep your hands up off her / You know she’s mine” without a hint of the requisite menace, and alternate vocalist Monica Garcia, for the most part in the background, is utterly abysmal; her lead vocals on the pair of songs she contributed (and for that matter, the songs themselves) are cringe-worthy embarrassments. (“Talk Dirty To Me” is downright creepy, and “Listen To Mama” not much better).
It’s all well-intentioned and competent enough (Ms. Garcia aside), and it’s clear the band is committed and doing their best. But it’s all been done before, and better, elsewhere. Weld’s going to have to dig a lot deeper than this to make his mark.