Alive at the Deep Blues Fest is the convergence of many cool things. This summer, Minnesota BBQ magnate and founder of the Deep Blues Festivals Chris Johnson decided to revitalize the Deep Blues Fest after a 2 year hiatus. Between 2007 and 2010, the festival became the biggest alternative blues gathering in the world. Then financial hardship forced its discontinuation. The retooled version of Deep Blues that took place June 29th thru July 1st focused more on a sustainable, “quality not quantity” model that capped the attendees at a manageable 200.
To include the rest of us in the festivities, Deep Blues partnered with Alive Naturalsound Records to record the concert and showcase artists on Alive’s roster in a live context. Alive at the Deep Blues Fest is a full tilt listening experience. No tired, dragging renditions of “Mustang Sally” to be found here. Instead what you have is the raw, uncapped energy of true blues revitalization channeled through some of the strongest talent the roots world boasts.
The album starts off with The Buffalo Killers and their ass-kicking, classic rock-feeling power trio approach to the blues, kicking in teeth as they careen out of control on stage. Their 2nd song on the album “It’s A Shame” features Deep Blues royalty Mark “Porkchop” Holder on the harp. Rising stars Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires pick up from there with two cuts from their critically-acclaimed debut There’s A Bomb in Gillead. Don’t tell anybody, but the title track from that album was the one song I felt that came off a little tired. But here in the live context, they tattoo it to the wall, and chase it will a wild version of the up-temp “Red Red Dirt of Home”. These first four songs make Alive at the Deep Blues Fest worth the trouble if nothing else does.
Next Brian Olive brings his blues songwriting prowess and heartfelt soul to the Deep Blues stage, setting the table for Radio Moscow who just like The Buffalo Killers, re-capture that high-energy, late-60’s era blues-based power trio vibe, and mix it with psychedelic soul. Front man Parker Griggs is a monster of the electric guitar, and waylays the Deep Blues faithful with the wah pedal infused anthem of heartbreak, “Hold On Me”.
Left Lane Cruiser is the legacy Deep Blues act of the album, with the deepest lineage at the Deep Blues Fests. In a lineup that features a lot of blues infused rock, Left Lane bucks the trend by playing two straight blues numbers, “Rambling On My Mind” and “24 Hours Blues”, belched out in their signature rusty hubcap, raspy voiced junkyard-style slam beat. John The Conqueror, one of the newest members to the Alive Records lineup offers up the soulful “Three More”. Henry’s Funeral Shoe who made the trek all the way from South Wales in England finish up the album with two of their signature songs.
I was a little surprised how much rock made its way onto this album, though it’s all so good it’s hard to complain. And though the general Deep Blues fan may have wanted to see a little more variety in the artists selected for this album, it was Alive Records stepping up to make Alive at the Deep Blues Fest happen, and it makes an excellent primer to inoculate yourself with the talent Alive has in its stables.
1 1/2 of 2 guns up
You can also listen to the entire album for a limited time HERE.