Cincinnati-based blues/swamp rock quartet the Magic Lightnin’ Boys, led by vocalist Casey Gomez, released their album titled Stealin’ Thunder in May of this year (2016). Gomez also takes care of the harp and the piccolo bass, while Brian Tarter takes on guitar and backing vocals, Richie Lee plays bass, and Kurt Lipphardt manages all things drums.
The album is a mix of longer, regular tracks and shorter, acoustic ones. The latter selections are all constructed on three basic elements: drums, guitars, and vocals. Some of them feature extra elements as well, including the harmonica, horns, and backing solos. In many cases, an electric guitar solo breaks up the songs.
The shorter numbers include “Nan’s Poem”, quite simply a poem read by an older woman over a melody played on the harmonica; “Spaceship Blues”, which features soulful electric guitar; “The Cleansing”, a folk rock addition to Stealin’ Thunder; and “Bando’s Ballad”, where an acoustic guitar adds a Latin vibe to the album. Of particular note is “Before the Storm”, which opens up with the sound of an actual storm that is then picked up by an electric guitar and cymbals that sound like rolling thunder. Beginning slowly, the track swells at the three-quarter mark into what sounds like the middle of an actual storm. This begs the question: Why does the title reference to the time before a storm when the auditory experience is that of the opening salvo of a big storm?
The mid-tempo, fun and dynamic “Mojo” is one of the rock and roll songs built on the main three components of this album, as is “N2U”, with both featuring an attention-grabbing electric solo around the halfway mark.
“April Rain” also features only the same main three components. This mid-tempo rock track is getting a particular mention because it comes off as the audio version of watching a rain shower from within one’s warm home, perhaps while holding a cup of hot tea. The melody is led during the bridge with a plucked electric guitar, reminiscent of the times the rain slows down and the sound of separate drops can be heard. Backing vocals are added as of the one-third mark, which come off a little as the wind that can be heard through the rain. The number is calm, yet energetic, much like a good, soothing rain shower that cleans everything up.
“Fear and Freedom” starts off as calm and soothing for a handful of seconds before turning into a mid-tempo, heavy rock song with chugging electric guitars and a drum line that alternates between a simpler one accompanying the vocals and a hectic, multilayered one during the bridge and chorus. This reflects the way the entire track fluctuates between containing a slower tempo with simpler melodic lines, and a faster beat with fuller melodic lines the vocals at times feel ill-suited for. Just like with the others, the tight and catchy electric guitar solo that cuts it in two demonstrates great musicianship.
The elements added to the other songs include the harmonica in “Bones”, “The Ride”, and “Rubber Side Down”. The toe-tapping, electric guitar-led “Bones” is a folk and country rock number featuring gritty vocals and guitars. “The Ride” starts slow as a mellow, laid-back, and relaxed bluesy rock number which is kicked up into triple time around the halfway mark. Stealin’ Thunder also features “Roll”, an uptempo funk rocker with horns.