Blues Review – Ten Foot Polecats “Undertow”

May 5, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  9 Comments

ten-foot-polecatsThe Ten Foot Polecats out of Boston bring the serious, full-tilt North Mississippi deep blues mojo on their new chest-pounding, groove-infested long player rightly entitled Undertow. As the name implies, this bad boy sucks you down and doesn’t quit tugging you asunder until you wholly submit to the deep muddy abyss of booty-shaking rhythms. They may be from Beantown, but when these boys cut on the amps and microphones and the feeders are cued up, they take your ass all the way back to Junior Kimbrough’s old place in Chulahoma, Mississippi to feel the amplified sweaty smelly pain of the dirty South.

Undertow is the Polecats’ second full-length album, but their first of all original material. It acts as a treatise in the tones and modes of the Deep Blues sound, with guitar man Jim Chilson shedding the low ‘E’ string off his old guitar and putting on a proverbial fingerpicking clinic. Even more so than on their first album I Get Blamed For Everything I Do, Undertow allows Chilson to work uninhibited because of the originality of the compositions, granting his blazing guitar style the ability to breathe and blossom because he’s not just giving his take or interpretation to a blues standard, he’s setting the original standard for the song. Maybe the best part about the Chilson style is the simplest element–the times when he mutes the strings and rakes his fingers across the guitar, sending the rhythm of the song directly to your spine. The man is an absolute  5-string blues guitar savant.

ten-foot-polecats-undertowJay Scheffler is the principal singer and songwriter for the Polecats, and as Jim Chilson is kicking you, Sheffler is holding you down. The man’s got a growl that rivals a set of glass pack mufflers, and makes his compositions sound 60-years-old in the way he’s studied the old blues greats and the verbiage they used. Drummer Chad Rousseau is the newest member of the band, and lends his hand to the compositions in spots as well.

Undertow’s title track is a blues guitar 8-minute instrumental opus by Jim Chilson, and is probably the album’s biggest takeaway. Right behind it though is the rousing opening track “Do That Thing,” the Muddy Roots Festival-inspired “Moonshine And Mud,” and the super fun “Shibble.” What’s a ‘shibble’ you ask? It is something you do with a dibble. What is a ‘dibble?’ Well you’ll just have to listen to the song.

Like with many deep blues albums, the songs on Undertow seem to either capture you, or the don’t. Very little gray area here, so you may find yourself skipping around to tracks and ignoring others. I also wish they would have found a way to dirty up the drums just a little more. I think Chad Rousseau did a great job job composition-wise, it was more the mood that might have been able to be set better in the mixing. Still, if you’re looking for one of those albums that pulls you in and won’t let go, get yourself a copy of Undertow.

1 1/2 of 2 guns up.

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Purchase Undertow from the Ten Foot Polecats

Preview & Purchase Tracks on Amazon

9 Comments to “Blues Review – Ten Foot Polecats “Undertow””

  • Such awesome guys, killer music, they’re everything awesome about Hill Country Blues and Rock all thrown into one big pile.

    I’ve had the fortune to meet Jim, Jay and Chad a few times playing guitar for Danny Kay & the Nightlifers and I’ll tell you this much: if you don’t like these guys, then you got something heinously wrong with your musical taste.

    Chad’s a friggin’ machine on those drums. While there isn’t much room for drum solos (HOW?! It’s a guitar, harmonica & drum trio!) he could blow past Gene Krupa and not even care.

    Jim Freakin’ Chilson. His guitar style TERRIFIES me. It’s doing three parts at one time so flawlessly, but so raw. It’s almost like watching flamenco in action, but a weird Mississippi Hill Country-style Flamenco.

    And of course, there’s Jay. He sounds like Howlin’ Wolf yet plays like Little Walter, and it just fits perfectly.

    All in all, nice guys, kickass musicians. They deserve to be heard WAY more.


  • Nice review. Look forward to checking this out.


  • Having been a big fan of their first album, I had preordered this album from their site and so have had it for a while. Very, very good album. Some serious boogie.


  • lookin forward to hearing this. loved the first record.


  • I discovered these guys when I was doing a family band thing with my Kids in Worcester …
    Absolutely killer act… I try to get out and see them as often as I can…


  • Finally getting a chance to listen right now! Its mind-bending to think this all comes out of three guys, nonetheless just one guitar!


  • these guys FLOOORED me when i saw them live…if you ever get the chance, its a must. cool dudes on top of that. Im proud that i shared swigs from a makers mark bottle with jim at christyfest…i was hoping some of his mojo would rub off. they are the real deal, and good gents. four guns up.


  • Here’s a great interview our buddy Nick did about this album:

    TFPC rule the school. If you haven’t seen them live you better beg, borrow, and steal to get yourself to their next show (then buy a ton of merch to keep them on the road!).


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