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Music Review: The Bridge – The Bridge

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There is something undeniably cathartic about driving and listening to music.

Certain albums seem to be made for the open road, and The Bridge’s self-titled release is one of those offerings. With a laid back pace and narrative lyrics referring to wheels a-turning and engines spinning, it is a very befitting companion for a trip down the highway.

The young Baltimore-bred quintet delivers a melting pot of musical styles on this latest CD – from bluegrass-flavored tunes like “Flats of the Old Avenue” and “Chains,” to the incredibly funky “Bad Locomotive” and “Shake ‘em Down.” One of The Bridge’s unique selling points is the incorporation of beat box and saxophone, adding jazz and hip-hop flare into the mix as well.

From the opening song “Get Back Up,” listeners will hear the remarkably tight instrumentation between guitarist Cris Jacobs, bassist Dave Markowitz, drummer Mike Gambone, saxophonist Patrick Rainey, and mandolin/beat boxing extraordinaire Kenny Liner. Supplementing the five core members of the group are frequent guest appearances, including organist John Ginty (Citizen Cope), pianist Mookie Siegel (Phil Lesh & Friends, Dave Nelson Band), and drummer Russell Batiste Jr. (The Funky Meters).

One of the album’s most powerful displays appears in the soulful and dynamic “Angelina.” Jacobs reveals his strength on lead vocals, showcasing a broad range and pitch perfect harmonies with backing vocalists Dave Markowitz and guest Ed Hough.

“Bad Locomotive” is an instant stand-out track, filled with beefy bass lines, smoking hot guitar licks, and a blistering solo from Jacobs that is nearing Stevie Ray Vaughan status. Ominous statements like “halfway to the burying ground” and “I sold my reason for a one-way ride” conjure images of addiction and destructive behavior, which marks a brief departure from the mostly light-hearted tone found in the rest of the album.

Beyond his abilities on the guitar and vocals, Cris Jacobs is listed as the songwriter for nine of the album’s twelve tracks. He and co-founder Kenny Liner share authorship of “The Ballad of Clear Rock,” and Liner is credited with the remaining two songs.

It was an ambitious undertaking considering the band’s heavy national touring schedule, but apparently these two were up to the challenge. What has emerged is a refreshing album with broad appeal, one that literally bridges the gap between genres and generations (and it helps with road rage, too).

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