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24 PESOS Busted Broken And Blue Ourgate Records (2010)

24 Pesos

24 Pesos are not the first blues band to push the contemporary blues button to find themselves on the outer periphery of their chosen genre exploring funky grooves and hip hop inspired vocals.

In fact Nu Blues beat them to the punch by a couple of years. 'Busted Broken and Blue' is the kind of album that refuses to be tethered to any one label and that explains much of its essential vitality.

It's an album which undoubtedly has a blues heart but it is music played with raw exciting passion by a very good band who push their explosive style as far as it will go.

The opening 'Maxwell Street', for example, is full of slide led dobro, superb guitar playing, a big drum sound and an imposing Hammond. The band leans into a deep groove like 'Never Saw the Devil' and updates the blues in a unique way offering widespread appeal even to those who might not immediately recognise it as blues.

They also have their own style, best exemplified by the riff driven and familiar sounding title of 'Waiting At The Station'. The raucous rocker is full of feverish John Popper style harp and Julian Burdock's double tracked guitar and harp. There's all the bluster and kick ass excitement you might expect from an up and coming band, but 24 Pesos deliver their music with a post Punk intensity and burning licks that push the song to the limit rather than extend it beyond recognition.

Julian Burdock raps out the lyrics of 'In The Summertime' with real urban venom and also adds a compelling dobro line. But it is a brief harp flurry that initially breaks the tension and only a subsequent stop-time ice breaker gives him enough space to work his stuff before a mantra like repeat of the hook.

There's so much that is good here, from the individual playing to the band collectively fleshing out some thoughtful arrangements that leave enough of space for improvisation. Bass player Silas Maitland is as unassuming in his production duties as he is holding down the bottom end, but he successfully accomplishes both tasks on an album that flows from beginning to end.

24 Pesos hammer home their rapped out imagery on 'Live My Life To Sing The Blues' via a bluesy narrative that is every bit as vivid as the way in which Burdock phrases it. You can almost feel the blues sweating out of every pour of their body on a bone crunching number full of raucous, dirt sounding slide guitar and nicely rounded percussive splashes. The exhilarating vocal outro is the perfect finish to a ball busting track that pushes every possible air molecule round the room.

And just for the sake of variety they slip into a James Brown groove on 'Mean What I Say', a song that just about finds enough in the solos to emulate the tight intro.

Then there's the surprising pastoral feel of a straight forward ballad 'Somebody Else' with a Charlie Whitney (Family) style guitar line. The gentle meditative approach acts as a welcome break from the relentless intensity of what has gone before and the subsequent jump blues of the title track suggests some thought has gone into the sequencing. It's a slice of 60's cool that borders on pastiche but is particularly well suited to Moz Gamble's organ.

The band belatedly returns to its true roots on the slow blues 'Day Becomes Night', which is a song that inadvertently displays both their strengths and weaknesses. It's a well judged arrangement but curiously doesn't suit Julian's vocal style, leaving Moz to nicely noodle the band out of a corner.

'Neckbones And Gumbo' nicely wraps things up with a Hawaiian sounding guitar intro in a laid back Louisiana influenced finale that features Julian on perfectly judged slide guitar.

24 Pesos are an exciting young band with enough verve, dash and spontaneity to jump out of the box like a fire cracker and grab the blues by the scruff of its neck and drag it into 2010. The strength of 'Busted Broken And Blue' is that it captures all the frisson of their performance and as such is the perfect introduction to a band on the up escalator.


Review by Pete Feenstra


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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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