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Stuck at the crossroads

...grooved...
Boboš & The Frozen Dozen
Published by: Millenium Records
Price: Sk299
Available at: most music stores
WITH countless goateed hacks claiming to be authentic simply because they throw around the word "blues" while a once-relevant figure such as BB King morphs into an easy listening version of himself, things seem a little discouraging, if not hopeless, for blues fans these days.



...grooved...
Boboš & The Frozen Dozen
Published by: Millenium Records
Price: Sk299
Available at: most music stores

WITH countless goateed hacks claiming to be authentic simply because they throw around the word "blues" while a once-relevant figure such as BB King morphs into an easy listening version of himself, things seem a little discouraging, if not hopeless, for blues fans these days. Genuine, passionate blues still can be found, to be sure; it just takes some searching. Those devoted to such a search should not end it with ...grooved..., the latest CD from Boboš and The Frozen Dozen.

What Slovak harmonica player/singer Erich "Boboš" Procházka and his band play is not authentic blues, though the CD's name-dropping songs are perhaps an attempt to prove otherwise: Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, etc. Most telling, though, is a nod to John Popper, the leader of the inaccurately named Blues Traveler, a once popular, always boring, blues-rock jam band.

The Frozen Dozen tread rather similar ground, creating blues-rock that occasionally works, but frequently does not. Though a fine harmonica player, Boboš is not a particularly distinguished singer: He seems capable of little more than a muted growl - think Bruce Springsteen if he had a Slovak accent and laryngitis.

Things start off promisingly with The Blues - To Robert Johnson and John Campbell, a slow tempo sort of swamp blues that serves Boboš' croak well and features a great murky organ line, courtesy of producer/multi-instrumentalist Oskar Rózsa, a veteran of Slovakia's jazz scene.

The album's other truly solid track, Nitetrain, is, not coincidentally, its least overtly "bluesy". With distorted, reverbed guitar, an intense harmonica solo, and strange, programmed sound effects (again Rózsa), it seems constantly on the brink of chaos, but is kept grounded by its incessant bassline and fierce drumming. Easily the most experimental and successful track, it makes one wish they would stray from the tired "blues rock" mould more often.

Rózsa's modern production may work well here, but it too often veers into polished Adult Contemporary territory - not a good idea for music rooted in blues, a gritty, timeless art form.

Apart from a couple other decent slow tracks, the disc consists of bland blues-rock and overly slick blues-funk. Boboš and his band would be wise to get back on that Nitetrain and see where it takes them.

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