Thanks go out to Navajo Slim (aka: Greg Hasty) not only for his in depth, honest, and insightful review of "Revolution Rhapsody aka: Uprising Music", but also for going the extra mile and sending it to me personally even after the publication he works for, Lit Magazine, closed last month.
Thanks dude! The world needs more people like you! :-)
(side note from Bushmaster - Greg received the music electronically and did not have the benefit of the liner notes or credits to refer to when writing this review - thanks to all the talented musicians who worked on this disc with me, know that when this reviewer (or any other) mentions one of your parts and/or performance, that I direct the credit to that mention to you - thank you for your work :-) ... therefore the only edit I have made to Navajo Slim's review is to add * denoting a footnote reference to the various musicians - check below the review for the footnotes)
Can't recall how I became exposed to Gary Brown and Bushmaster but it's one of those crossing paths that makes you want to sip the wine and pass the cup. In a plasticine era where music is genetically manufactured inside a studio laboratory, Brown has pieced together an album that teleports us three decades in reverse. Synthetic music unfortunately is becoming more the norm and simultaneously rock is becoming more demystified, so shouldn't we savor the remnants of our proud musical heritage with bands like Bushmaster? Crack it open and here's what you find; a fifteen track effort that is appealing and confounding, rough cut and poignant, political and literal. If you like blues, muddy rock or juke joint jive, Bushmaster's the ticket.
The CD starts off with Cumberland Blues, sprung forth by a soliloquy from a close friend called 'cracker boy' who leaves Brown a voice mail saying he needs to straighten him out before he 'destroys his whole career'. The funked-up tune that follows is not really a blues recording but a chiseled rock formation with some blue coloring on it where Brown's leathered vocals are exposed. The man sounds eerily like the late Charlie Allen of the 70s band Pacific Gas and Electric and personifies someone who has paid more than his dues playing and touring for over 30 years. "You can't break me", "You can't shake me", are lyrics from the next track, I Will Shine, which is a slower rendition, Brown's vocals* sounding more like James Dewar of Robin Trower fame or perhaps Paul Rodgers of Free. This song unfortunately doesn't hold the power shown in later tracks and musically doesn't meet up to standards set elsewhere even though the lyrics are cogent and an uncanny abbreviated Hendrix like guitar appears inside verses. The first true blues track, Victim of Nostalgia queues up next with more power and confidence shown by Brown's vocals, with a funky down-home rhythm. Then unexpectedly truncates midway through the song and diverges into a sexy groove of repetitive verse sung by an unknown female** vocalist saying, "This girl just came along and jumped into my pants and I couldn't find it." The chorus shift was brilliant and lifts the beginning of the song which was good but unspectacular. It takes the listener through the extended pulsating throb for over two minutes, maybe a bit lengthy but still effective and fun.
Track Four, Arizona Shame On You, is a very cleverly written rendition ridiculing the conservative nature of the state and the immigration snafu that caused red faces all around. Injected are lines spoken in Spanish for emphasis*** but the thoughtful and savvy lyrics by Brown are keepers whether you agree or not. Brown's sharp political positioning is refreshing but risky and is supported by cool, relaxed tuneage that leaves the limelight for Brown's singing. Phony People highlights Brown's adept guitarmanship which at times does mirror Hendrix especially at the break and proclaims his abilities as a first class axe man. Front and center again are the lyrics this time taking aim at phony people (who hasn't he targeted thus far?) and it's obvious that Brown harbors bad memories with some that he's encountered in life and isn't afraid to be in your face about it. Ball and Jack, song #6 is an old blues rendition talking about his girl's lack of appreciation for what the character in the song has bought or given her. The tune is catchy with humorous verse and a solid supporting bayou beat. Occasionally bands inject instrumentals into the track scheme, sometimes it works, others it doesn't. Listeners generally don't like to hear a 'going to the break song' on an album and track 7, Sidewalk Strut is just that and so is track #10 although Trudi is a touch more interesting.
Following the blues trail left by Ball and Jack, War on The Poor echos similarly-taking a shot at Wisconsin's governor, Scott Walker and the scandal surrounding his tenure and applying to our nation's poor, saying "if we don't fight the power, the rest of us are though". Well thought out lyrics although the listener has to pay the price for listening through more political posturing although it doesn't weigh the song down too much because of the folky rhythm and cadence. Next up is Flow River **** which starts out in the familiar blues camp now exhibiting Brown's accomplished fretting and true Hendrixish structuring with an abrupt change of flow midway through the track sounding either like Trower or Hendrix depending on which ear you listen through. This is one of the better songs on the album ending with a spoken plea to protect our environment and then attacking our corporate CEOs ala Hendrix.
Skipping past the aforementioned Trudi, we meet face up to 40 Acres and a Mule. A simple, knee tapping blues rag with entertaining lyrical content that reminds you of what may have been heard in the smoky clubs down south at the height of the blues awakening. Then the best song on the album follows with Nothing Up Your Sleeve, a slow down-rhytmned blues anthem that asks for folks to show mercy, think of others, and hints of Brown's religious conscious while accompanying the slow arching, sometimes painful wail of his guitar. More of this please. The last music track of the album is We All Fall Down, the first true rock contribution to the disc that hits the listener perfectly between the ears with more of a driving sound highlighted by Brown's slick guitar works throughout. This rumble down the street rendition is honorable mention to Nothing Up Your Sleeve and gives us hope that Brown and Company can come up with more music along these lines.
Bushmaster featuring Gary Brown is genuinely unique especially given the current status of the music being recorded today and gives one hope that our signature sounds of yesteryear aren't lost just quite yet. Their sounds make you want to go see them live and experience the talent first hand and witness Brown impromptu. Aside for the overindulgence of political discussions, this album is a keeper and has meaning, purpose and vision. Let this vision be focused on that which can be performed with forgiveness, not blame.
* vocals on "I Will Shine" by Rob Thorworth
** female vocalist on "Victim Of Nostalgia" is Sarah Wiskeman, the lyric she sings is "This groove just came along and jumped into my pants and I couldn't fight it"
*** Spanish language spoken word on "Arizona Shame On Ya" by Jaime Acuna
**** "River Flow/Splash!"