Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Dave Gross "Crawling The Walls" *****

Vizztone has a winner in Dave Gross, guitarist, vocalist, producer, bandleader, songwriter. Only 23 years old, his third cd "Crawling The Walls" follows his 2007 release "Take The Gamble." "Take The Gamble" was a really good disc, produced by and featuring the great Duke Robillard. It was clear by the interplay between Gross and Robillard on the first song on that disc that Gross was not intimidated by the company he was keeping. I did not expect him to be this much better this soon, but "Crawling The Walls" ups the ante in every way. The first time I put it in the cd player I was thinking" this will be good," but I wasn't expecting a whole lot from it. But my jaw dropped--this disc is jumping from beginning to end! It's not "slap you in the face" obvious, but this is a deeply satisfying piece of music-making art.

The core band has Scott Hornick on bass, Michael Bram on drums, Mike Lattrell and Conal Fowkes on piano, Matt Munisteri on 2nd guitar and guitar-banjo, Rob Chaseman on alto sax, Jon-Erik Kellso on trumpet, Gerry Niewood on clarinet sax and baritone sax, and Doug Sasfai on tenor sax. Dennis Gruenling guests on harmonica on two songs. The label says everything was recorded "live" with no overdubs--all I can say it sounds really good, organically right. There are five originals and six covers--by such stellar artists as John Willie Henry, Ike Turner, the unjustifiably overlooked Don Robey and Charles Warfield. The subject matter and the tone varies widely: from a nice rock song "Rock In My Shoe" to smooth R&B in "It's My Life, Baby" and "You're Not The One" and "Find Yourself Another Man" with a couple of old fashioned 1920"s swing and jazz in "It Was Born In The 20s" and my favorite song on the disc "Baby Won't You Please Come Home?".

The varied themes and styles are all linked together by Gross's masterful guitar work and vocals. I can tell you--I've been listening to blues for over 35 years-- making music of this quality is simply not as easy as he makes it look. There are maybe a handful of acts out there who might be able to make a record this good--and none of them are 23 years old. Hopefully this guy will be making music for several more decades. I look forward to the future of the blues with Dave Gross in it. This is one of the very best cds of 2008. Everybody who reads this--go buy this disc.