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Five Horse Johnson : The Mystery Spot

Over the past 10 years Five Horse Johnson have created their own take on stoned-out, boozed-out blues metal. They view the blues with respect as a nasty, sensual genre, but one nevertheless capable of reinvention by musicians with excellent songwriting skills and a fine ear for melody. With the help of Clutch's skin beater John Paul Gaster on drums, they're produced IMO their most interesting album, if not their best.

Not that their previous drummer, Mike Alonso, was any slouch. His straightforward approach made 2003's 'Last Men on Earth' super-solid, with several tracks that ought to be staples of any Five Horse Johnson setlist. But nothing stays normal for long when members of Clutch are in the house. 'The Mystery Spot's title track starts off as somewhat of an homage to the redoubtable Captain Beefheart at his bluesy best ca. 'Clear Spot'. They didn't call it The Magic Band for nuthin'! Next up is the quirky crowd-pleasing fave 'Ten-Cent Dynamite', with a surprising drum outro. The centerpiece of the album is the amazing power ballad '...Of Ditch Diggers and Drowning Men', surely one of their best tunes ever. The melody is impeccable, the feeling somehow transcendent, and the possibility of transubstantiation, - of converting musical notes into something like spirit - lurks around the corner. Anyway, its great. Of course, it's the blues metal that makes 5HJ. 5HJ., and it's everywhere, from the Gallery of Mites-esque 'Feed that Train' to the raunchy psycho blues of 'I Can't Shake It'.

I remember seeing this band a few years ago with Halfway to Gone. Tragically, the house was nearly empty, but my heart was full of love and admiration for these excellent players. In fact, I liked 'em live to the point that when I listened to their discs, even such acknowledged classics as 'No. 6 Dance', they just seemed like sad imitations of the real thing, and I put them away. But now, with Brad Coffin's guitar, played with an admirable ability to distinguish when to cut loose and when to shut up, Steve Smith's rock-solid bass, and Coffin's and Eric Oblander's raunchy vocals back in action on 'The Mystery Spot', they've piqued my interest once again. Quality will out, as they say. Gaster adds variety in a genre where it's difficult indeed for any band to distinguish themselves. Touchstones for cognoscenti would be ZZ Top, 'Beefheart ca. 1972, the late, great Swedish blues metal group Halfman, the Jersey trainwreck Gallery of Mites, and of course Clutch. Have a drink on me!

Reviewer's rating: Unrated


Tracklist :
1. The Mystery Spot
2. Ten-Cent Dynamite
3. Call Me Down
4. ...Of Ditch Diggers and Drowning Men
5. Gin Clear
6. Rolling Thunder
7. Feed That Train
8. Keep Your Prize
9. Three Hearts
10. The Ballad of Sister Ruth
11. I Can't Shake It
12. Drag You There

Duration : Approx. 45 minutes

Visit the Five Horse Johnson bandpage.

Reviewed on ??-??-???? by Kevin McHugh
Hate Your Guts Records
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