Blues rock, rockin' blues...call it what you will, I love it, but I'm also really picky about how it's done. The good news for me is that one of the best blues rockers to be released in a long time is from none other than the Stoney Curtis Band. Cosmic Conn3ction is that perfect blend of anthem rock and gritty blues.
With a release date of March 8, 2011, from Shrapnel Records' Blues Bureau division, Cosmic Conn3ction does not disappoint. As a Stoney Curtis Band fan for a number of years, I've come to know and love his work and it's not unusual for me to be calling out favorites during a show. Now, well that list just got a lot longer and a lot stronger. You see, as good as Stoney's previous releases were, there's new depth to his writing, playing, and vocals. It's evident in every note played and sung. He’s also led admirably in the studio by producer Mike Varney. Varney gives Stoney room to rock and doesn’t attempt to turn him into some slick soundin’ hack. Thank God! There’s just enough shine here to show you how brilliant the album is without losing sight of the grit and grease that make good music ring true.
Kickin' off the party is the call for "Blues and Rock & Roll." Tight, rockin', and man, do I ever love the drum intro, quickly followed by some blazin' guitar work, causing me to throw horns and rock out (like someone my age probably shouldn't really do in public). I don't care. If I embarrass anyone, it's their problem, not mine. I want to have fun and this party's startin' off perfectly. So how does Stoney follow up a kick ass rocker? With smoldering blues, baby, in the form of "When The Sweet Turns To Sour." Love gone wrong, a long-held blues complaint turns from a simmering conversation to an outright sizzler that burns right through the anger and the lies, leaving nothing but ashes.
"Mouthful of Honey" brings to mind everything that was good about 70s rock 'n' roll. Rollin' keys from Jesse Bradman nudge this into classic rock boogie territory, especially as it's layered in with exceptional guitar leads. If you want to rock out a bit harder, check out "Mary Jayne." There's no holding back the power on this tune and the backing vocals are icing on the cake for me. I don't know why the combination of killer guitar and sweet harmonies get to me quite the way they do, but Stoney seems to understand. Beautiful, man.
How can one not appreciate the sweet shuffle open on "Headin' For The City"? Who can resist trippin' out a little during the psychedelic "Soul Flower"? The energy and killer effects complement one another beautifully and they entice you into another dimension. "Rise Up" also falls into the same category, albeit a bit differently, but with great effect.
"Good Lovin' Done Right" and "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" are two instant and constant favorites. For different reasons, both songs have distinct energy and are easily the two most motivational when it comes time for me to get my ass in gear. Then there's "Big Beautiful Women," a song about, of all things, Craigslist. Hey, if you've never cruised the personal ads there, you're gonna have to now just to see how real the lyrics are!
Slowing things down, "Infatuation Blues" digs into new love without going to sappy and sweet, well, except for the guitar work, which ranges from bright, sweet notes on down in to the gritty, heavy "I'm fallin' for you, baby" range. When I hear a song like this, hear how it's constructed, it reads as easily and perfectly as any classic romance. This is how you play a love story, people. Take the words away and the guitar tells the story just as easily as anything sung. The gentle pleading, the building hunger, the absolute insatiable need to be together... it's all there.
At this point I should just give up trying to pick a favorite track, but each time I pop this disc in for a listen, I find myself kind of falling in love with each one. "Infatuation Blues" pretty much nails it, though, through the guitar work alone.
Of course, the song that really lays bare the heart is "The Letter," which I've had the privilege to hear live more than a few times prior to getting the CD. It's personal, it's raw, it's real. And anyone who offers up a song like "The Letter," well, you know they're digging deep into their soul when they sing it. It's a fitting closer for a disc that takes you on a musical journey that, alone, is worth the ride, but is even better because of the great payoff at the end.
I don't normally include bonus tracks that are only available on imports, but for "Movin' To Vegas," I rather feel compelled to discuss it at least a little. It's fast, harp-enhanced, partly humorous, partly serious, and damn if it doesn't tell you exactly what to expect when you move to Sin City. The promise of riches is here, but there are no guarantees. Not in this town. Except for one: if you do come to Vegas? You gotta come visit when Stoney Curtis is playing because I do guarantee a damn fine show.
As much as I've loved Stoney's work in the past, Cosmic Conn3ction brings everything to a whole new level. From the songwriting on down to production (which is nicely unobtrusive, as I mentioned before), this CD has legs...legs ready to run, ready to pedal, ready to wrap themselves around you...whatever it takes to draw you in and get on board. Europe has long known and appreciated the Stoney Curtis Band. With Cosmic Conn3ction, I dare say America's gonna have to step up and get the love fest going, too.