True blues hit gold with their debut
The moments in my life when I’m willing to admit to being wrong are few and far between. Not that I’m always right, I just don’t like to admit being wrong. So it’s pretty obvious that I made a musical error of judgement regarding this record. I took a look at it, and decided to put off reviewing it. Yeah. BIG mistake. Not just in my editor’s opinion, but for myself as well. Because that was an extra few days that I could have had listening to this stunning record.
The Pack A.D. is something that has been crying to happen to the blues world for a long time, and yet has taken so long to happen. Here are two girls who play ‘true’ blues-rock. Think Free, Janis Joplin, Groundhogs, and early Fleetwood Mac, and you won’t be far off. I think part of my initial misgivings were in reading that The Pack A.D. are a blues duo. The cynical little voice in the back of my head must have added “Yeah, and I bet they’re related, and they wear red and white…”
Yes, they’re a guitarist and drummer, but there’s more to this than a numbers game. And there’s more to this band and their debut album than the PR hype music lovers are usually subjected to these days.
Opening track ‘Gold Rush’ packs a mighty punch, and it’s difficult to tell that there are only the two people playing. It’s an album that you just don’t have to think about in those terms, because you’re too involved with it to care. It’s a heady rush of stripped-down blues riffage and pounding drums. And despite many blues purists misgivings, in Becky Black The Pack A.D. have a vocalist that surpasses expectations in what is a very male dominated genre. Soulful, tortured, and full of meaning, it hits that crucial line of gender-defying quality. It must be something in the water at the moment, with this new breed of quality blues vocalists/musicians such as The Black Keys and The Answer.
‘Pilot’s Blues’ is more traditional blues, with the half-whispered half-croaked vocals and muted chugging guitar. And it’s the first modern blues track I’ve heard for a while that manages to sound fresh, and yet stick to the traditional structures and styles without compromise. But if this all sounds a bit limited, delve further into the album and it’s not just hardcore blues revivalism. ‘Hardtack Saloon’ (all 3 parts, in whichever order) is an oddity, being a few seconds of gentle solo piano playing. I don’t quite get what it’s doing there, but it’s certainly not unwelcome.
The Pack A.D’s manifesto is a simple one:
“We play the blues and drink coffee.
We like to play the blues while we drink coffee.”
And I like to listen to blues while drinking coffee. So all is well with the world.