Sunday, 12 October 2014

Handsome Jack - Do What Comes Naturally

The latest torch carriers for gritty, soulful blues release their debut LP.

The Blues is a wheel that keeps on turning, a gift that keeps on giving. The recent popularity of The White Stripes, The Black Keys, Seasick Steve et al, have made the blues newly accessible to mainstream ears. Unlike jazz it seems to have avoided becoming a dead form, ironically by not changing that much. The same three chords, same subject matter and same delivery have served it pretty well.

The latest band to breathe new life into this old form is Handsome Jack, a quartet from Buffalo, NY. Their debut album Do What Comes Naturally doesn't serve up anything particularly revolutionary but as the title suggests they make music that feels right, and feels good, from the blue-eyed soul burr of the vocals to the in-the-pocket funky rhythm section.

Unlike the White Stripes' punked-up take on the blues, or the Black Keys indie-funk makeover, Handsome Jack have opted for a more organic blues/soul reunification, one with it's roots in the deep southern states of Mississippi and Tennessee as opposed to the NY zip-code that Handsome Jack call home.

Much like the LPs Albert King made for Stax Records, the music here is laid-back, groove-laden and soulful. The band's roots in garage rock are betrayed by the record's bourbon-soaked rawness, but it's a blues record at heart, albeit one that owes as much to '70s funk and late '60s blues rockers Canned Heat as it does to the electrified Chicago blues of John Lee, Muddy and Wolf.

Produced by Zachary Gabbard of label-mates The Buffalo Killers, the record essentially captures the band's live sound with some subtle additions - sumptuous Hammond organ (courtesy of The Lemon Pipers' Bob Nave), the occasional harmonica solo, and some Sweet Inspirations-esque backing vocals. Do What Comes Naturally is a fine addition to the contemporary blues cannon and a disc that'll nicely soundtrack any blues house party.

Click here for more on Handsome Jack.