Going South but doing it right, international heavy jazzers zoom in on a hot location.
Life’s been hectic for this trio who, in between their global trek and Guthrie Govan and Marco Minnemann’s part in Steven Wilson’s tour, squeezed the recording of the band’s third studio album. But then, breaking such a sweat might have contributed to its sun-beating-down feel and molded its loose cinematic concept. Of course, given the group’s line-up and patented humor, analogies with a certain Texan combo would be inescapable, so they’re addressed head-on in “ZZ Top” whose riff marries boogie to prog and keeps Minnemann’s swing in check.
When it comes to escaping, the elegant “Smuggler’s Corridor” provides a surf-styled and harmonically strung way out to Mexico, while “Texas Crazypants” resolves its mariachi rave in reckless rock ‘n’ rolling and a rodeo race. For a contrast, “Pressure Relief” and “Pig’s Day Off” flow lazy, indeed, allowing the plectrums to relax until the blues kicks in and heaviness returns. And if there’s a shadow of bolero in “Jack’s Back,” it’s given a texture by a filigree strum and fusion jive which Jeff Beck himself would be proud to try if only to measure the immense dynamics of the piece.
Yet the start of it all sounds serious, “Stupid 7” seeming to exert a funky force to add brutal adventurousness to its magnificent groove, as Bryan Beller’s bass cuts across Govan’s guitar scratch before his coyote call throws a dangerous slant to the performance. The same can’t be said about “The Kentucky Meat Shower” where twangy country takes the reins but its romantic ebbing gets broken in the middle with a bout of shredding, until the epic “Through The Flower” opts for muscularity rather than flourishes to bring the caballeros to a close. So there may be less fun this time around (save for shenanigans preserved on the bonus DVD, with demos, interviews and live/studio footage) but the trip South cooks it hot nevertheless.