Jeff Norwood detours from the traditional path of the bluesman and delves into the deep, piney woods of acid-blues and even trance-blues on his new collection of original guitar-pounders. On the one hand this is, as he notes, “a new generation blues recording.” On the other hand it would sound right at home in the age of Jimi Hendrix and Big Brother and the Holding Company and Paul Butterfield.
We have a good variety of feels here: slow grinders like “Blue Becomes Electric” and “Down Deep”; pounding blues-rock chants like the super-fun “God Damn South Carolina” and the epic title track; the traditional sounds of “Invisible Man” and “Hard Time Hustle”; psychedelia like “Hard to Love”; even the playful hoodoo blues of “King of the Jungle.”
Distorted guitar dominates most of the songs but woven into the mix are purer tones reminiscent of J. J. Cale’s subtle soloing. Norwood often achieves a rich blue-eyes soulfulness; “Forever” even reminds me a bit of Mofro. His guitar work, whether electrified and crunchy, or twangy and sliding on his Lightnin’ Resophonic, is always classically tasty, while his vocals carry a refreshing honesty as he pays tribute to the roots of the blues while at the same time rocking and rolling to the beat of his own drummer (even on songs with no drums).
The disc closes with an unexpectedly quiet, funerary meditation, hardly even a song, called “One Drink,” in which Norwood nails the contradictions and failures of this life of ours. “It just takes one drink to kill a man…I’m just like you, got a drink in my hand…serving the Devil, calling on the Lord to save me.” Every time we get together, he sings, there “must be another one of us gone.” We still keep getting together, though, and listening to elemental yet thoughtful blues like this is one good reason to do it.