The San Francisco-based band might have been founded in California but their music often makes them sound like they were “Born in Chicago”. For those unfamiliar with the Bay Area band, Crosscut consists of Michael Hoffman (lead and rhythm guitar and lead and backing vocals), Bryan McCue (lead, slide and rhythm guitar and lead and backing vocals), Gary Allsebrook (electric bass and lead and backing vocals) and Joe Howell (drums and percussion).
Their recent release, the eponymous Crosscut, is a solid sixteen-track release that features guest artists Scott MacGill (keyboards) and Greg “Tumbleweed” Mooney (harmonica). The album opener, “Born in Chicago”, while being a good cover of a Nick Gravenites number, an inadequate example of the full spectrum of the band’s abilities. Indeed, their own versions of such classics as the Rosas-Perez-Burnett ditty “Don’t Worry Baby” and Robert Johnson’s “Judgment Day” may reveal the roots of their musical inspirations.
Yes, the band freely admits an addiction to the tracks of “STAX and Motown” and the influences of “early Delta Blues, Memphis and Chicago Electric Blues” as well as “R&B, rock and a little bit of everything else”. Nevertheless, they are more than just a cover band.
Cue McCue’s composition “Please Stay Away”. This is the listeners’ first opportunity to hear the act’s original material. It introduces audiences to their signature sound of a musical mix of classic covers and their own blues-rock tunes. It’s perhaps all too quickly forgotten, however, once the band moves into their own version of John Lee Hooker’s classic cut “Boom Boom”.
Hoffman’s first original song comes next. It’s titled “Last Time You’ll Two Time Me”. It’s got that familiar feel to it and yet it is uniquely new.
It’s followed by a cover of a Rick Estrin composition “Turn My Back On You”. It’s not a song one hears on other albums perhaps due in part to the location connection between the artists. It works here at any rate.
The influence of more modern blues artists is also apparent here. Witness the cover of the song “Boom-Bapa-Boom”. It adds something to the overall feel of the album and yet remains true to the general genre focus.
One of the best tracks here is “Blues, Brews and Barbecue”. This is another Hoffman original and—let’s be honest—even the best cover band benefits from some original thinking once in awhile. The combination of both tribute tracks and unique, new songs makes this disc more enjoyable. Finally, this cut is practically handmade for one of the biggest blues events held in California to boot!
The next number is the band’s tuneful take on “Big Boss Man” a song made popular by blues artist Jimmy Reed. It’s left in the dust, however, by the following track, “You Don’t Love Me/Five Long Years”. This one is a nice medley of songs written by Willy Cobbs and Eddie Boyd respectively. In fact, the first song was actually originally inspired by Bo Diddley material so this one has got “blues greats" written all over it without being part of the usual standard blues cover playlist.
The twelfth tune is an almost humorous rendition of Estrin’s “Dump that Chump”. This seems to be a classic Night Cats cut not that most folks outside of the band’ home base would know it. Also included here is the band’s rendition of Tommy Castro’s “You’ve Got Somethin’” which is an unusual but refreshing choice when it comes to Castro cuts.
Also included here are their versions of Allen Toussaint’s tune the all too often universal “Get Out Of My Life Woman” and a noteworthy cover of Freddie King’s cut (made more popular by Eric Clapton) “Someday After Awhile”. The closing cut is also another album original McCue’s “There You Were”. Overall, the work provides a fine showcase of the band’s abilities to both present their own unique material and tributary tracks. Crosscut’s Crosscut provides a fine soundtrack for those in the mood for “Blues, Brews and Barbecue”.
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