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Detroit's Soledad Brothers set off badass blues explosions

Wednesday, Apr 10 2002
Hoping to follow the White Stripes' path from Midwestern house parties to MTV2, the Soledad Brothers hearken back to the roots of rock, setting off blues explosions ecstatic enough to warrant evangelical praise.

The Brothers were formed in 1998 by vocalist/guitarist Johnny Walker (né Johnny Wirick) and drummer Ben Swank (né Ben Smith). The duo's first single, "Sugar and Spice," caught the attention of Dave Crider, head of Estrus Records, who quickly added the band to his growing garage-rock empire. Since then, the Brothers have released two excellent full-lengths and one single on Estrus, as well as a track on last year's Sympathy for the Record Industry compilation The Sympathetic Sounds of Detroit.

The Brothers' new album, Steal Your Soul and Dare Your Spirit to Move, shows them pushing their primitive sound a step further, adding subtle acoustics to their rough edges. New addition Oliver Henry, who plays guitar, piano, and saxophone, is responsible for many of the softer touches. But there are also slight sonic colorings -- slide guitar, organ, light clapping, harmonicas, and tambourines -- that add just the right amount of texture.

Like the band's eponymous debut, Steal Your Soul features a fluid mix of Soledad originals and cover tunes (this time it's Mississippi Fred McDowell and Bill Withers who get the Soledad treatment). Whether singing his or someone else's words, Johnny Walker delivers his lines with an easy drawl, idly slinging stories about guns, gambling, run-ins with the law, and running out of love. Even in his darkest moments, Walker always sounds like he could sweet-talk his fiercest adversary into buying him a drink. Whereas the White Stripes spaz out, the Soledad Brothers keep their cool, maintaining a sultry swagger even when the rhythms speed up -- offering some badass blues in the process.

About The Author

Jennifer Maerz


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