Thursday, July 12, 2012

[Listen & Read] Blues Traveler's 11th Album: "Suzie Cracks The Whip"

Rock & Roll's little brother, you know, the one that's a little more folky, strikes an uncanny resemblance to John Popper. Popper, the frontman for the notoriously jam and harmonica oriented Blues Traveler, has undergone a musical facelift, however. The little brother isn't so little anymore, and folk rock has exploded over the past couple of years, drowning out the once exciting group. 

So what do Popper and the rest of the Travelers do in order to restore their rightful spot at number one? They make their 11th album but with a new vibe and style to it, all while collaborating with a production team used to working with the likes of Katy Perry and Gym Class Heroes. Although risky (and upon first listen, sometimes questionable), it's not a bad idea for the band to stretch their limits. After all, it has been 18 years since they made their grand entrance into the music world with their forever greats, Run Around and Hook. "Suzie Cracks The Whip" is a rejuvenated, almost reinvented, Blues Traveler, and although we may have some beef with a few elements, we're digging the overall product...

Big City Girls - Blues Traveler

"Suzie Cracks The Whip" was released on June 26th, but we've had the album since May thanks to our friends at 429 Records, the recording label now working with Blues Traveler. On first listen, I was a little disappointed. (Spoiler Alert) There isn't a single track on this album that can give Run Around or Hook runs for their money. It's something we, as fans, have to realize: Blues Traveler, nor any other band, will be able to produce a track as whimsical and furious as those two. The band seemed to already know this before starting their 11th project, hence their slightly new direction. 

"I love these guys like my family," Popper said regarding the band and the album, "but after writing the same way with the same people for 25 years, it was good to find a new outlet and take a different approach." 

And different it is. From bluesy romps to "Santana-flavored" jams, "Suzie Cracks The Whip" crosses the spectrum and stands out regardless of whether or not you like it. The uniqueness of the album can be credited to numerous members of the collaborative effort, something Blues Traveler has distanced themselves from in the past. Producers Sam Hollander and Dave Katz clearly left their mark. 

Popper clarified, "Working with them really brought out incredibly creative ideas we didn't know we had in us...[they] helped remind us about what was cool about Blues Traveler in the first place. It's easy to forget what's cool about yourself after so many years of being you." 

I have no doubt after 25 years together, playing 250 shows a year (Just looking at their tour schedule this year is exhausting). With this new sound and new energy, though, comes new expectations. Most of ours were met, but here's a quick run through of how the album struck us... 

Devil In The Details - Blues Traveler

What's Good: it's original and it's fun. There's just enough of Popper's infamous harmonica playing to keep the fans happy, and enough variation in style and sounds to draw in new ones. 
Focus on: Big City Girls, Devil In The Details, Don't Wanna Go, and Nobody Fall In Love With Me

What's bad: just enough harmonica doesn't mean we don't want more. We always want more. The variation in styles can sometimes frustrate us, and as we might suspect, the most die hard of fans who are used to the bands signature folk rock sound. The album cover also bugs me, but I just don't like the color red, so don't listen to me.
Potential Wincing: Recognize My Friend (it's an opinion thing, and since this track is more pop-rock, I have a hard time enjoying it)

The Verdict: if you've been following Blues Traveler since day 1, chances are you'll buy this album digitally, on CD, and vinyl. That might be overdoing it, but we do recommend purchasing this one. Although we don't work or review on a star system, we're gonna be a little crazy and give it 4 stars out of 5. 
Buyer's Guide: We say buy the album digitally for $9.99 on iTunes, or visit BestBuy to order a physical for the same price.

Stream "Suzie Cracks The Whip" HERE
Purchase the album THERE

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