We may never fully understand the link between misery and art no matter how long we study it but the sheer tonnage of exhibits that have stacked up over the centuries tell us there's something there. It can't be an accident.
I can't tell you what ignited the big bang, but can it be a coincidence that some of the great moments in music and the blues came from impoverished African-American sharecroppers in the South who were raised during the Great Depression?
Topical, timely songs these past few years have largely centered around the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that followed. The Kilborn Alley Blues Band had their say on that subject on their Tear Chicago Down CD ("Come Home Soon"). When listeners pick up their copy of Better Off Now, many will expect "Nothing Left To Stimulate" to be an ode to sexual innuendo and they'll be surprised. The band has turned their attention to an economic crisis that has crippled more Americans more deeply than any time since the Depression. Bad times for us are fertile times for the blues and Kilborn Alley has their finger on the pulse, delivering their own State of the Union with the kind of credibility you don't hear from leaders in Washington, D.C.
Vocalist Andrew Duncanson has a special charisma. "Nothing Left To Stimulate" blends traditional and modern blues elements with Americana roots rock. At the center of it all is Duncanson's natural ability to connect. He doesn't sound like a rich man singing a poor man's woes, rearing back and over-singing to create an aura of authenticity. He doesn't sound like a song interpreter. His pathos acts as a reassuring arm around the shoulder.
The music is a restrained blend of traditional and modern blues, distilled for purity. Kilborn Alley unleashes a vintage attack, in and out in 3:30. Ducanson and Josh Stimmel's interlocked guitars ring and churn while harp ace Joe Asselin stands just off to the side, wailing away. Kilborn Alley Blues Band plays the misery index and makes it sound good.