I love music derived from real blues. Not the “I picked up the latest John Mayer/Eric Clapton album and copied a few licks some pass off as the blues.” No the “crawled Beale Street at 3 in the morning, BBQ under the nails, knows Howling Wolf and Robert Johnson by heart kind of blues.” You get it or you don’t. 20 Watt Tombstone gets it. Even with my love of the blues I’ve never heard of Trash Blues before but if it’s 20 Watt Tombstone’s invention, all the better. This is dirty, get down, lay your licks and problems out there for the world to see music.
This is on display in a unique collaboration with Left Lane Cruiser. Death Blues vs. The Dirty Spliff features 3 tracks from each band with Left Lane Cruiser opening up the EP and 20 Watt Tombstone responding. While I did listen to the Left Lane Cruiser tracks, let’s just focus in on 20 Watt Tombstone for now. Call if half a review.
Guitarist Reverend Meantooth (Man – that’s a great blues name) works the slide like he’s Joe Perry’s guitar teacher. More distorted and aggressive than most traditional slide players, Meantooth seems to be having fun, exorcising demons and taking the music down the road from where it came. Drummer Grand Master Oh to the Zee brings in the more modern element with his skin skills with a mixture of heavy alt-rock with a bit of metal thrown in for good measure.
Lyrically and image wise 20 Watt Tombstone doesn’t fit the mold either. “Your Man’s a Jerk” gleefully harkens back to the back door man tradition of calling out a women’s partners’ shortcomings and letting her know your ready when she is. But it doesn’t sound like a 3rd rate plagiarizing Led Zeppelin’s plagiarizing tune. “Lair of the Swamp Witch” has a great hook that doesn’t sacrifice the garage band stylings by trying to go into the 90’s Aerosmith territory of mass marketability.
So I should be in love with this project right? We’ll not exactly. While I get the tracks are supposed to be less than pristine with a lot of distortion I really would have loved to get a little more high-end definition. In most cases only audiophiles notice this but the average listener might be hitting the boost on the high end as well. Some of the occult imaging may turn off the more squeamish as well. Blues has always been associated with the dark side since Robert Johnson cut the deal at the crossroads and as I said, this isn’t the washed down, cleaned up for the masses kind of stuff. Still I usually see Ram’s horns and think “Cool, Venom must have just cut a new album.”
So if you’re looking for something different, your definition of the blues doesn’t start and end with Caucasian Englishman and their apprentices, and you don’t mind if the audio quality is dirtier than a Memphis pig in a Mississippi mud bath, check out 20 Watt Tombstone’s tracks on Death Blues vs. The Dirty Spliff.