CAD Music 2023

Having roamed the backroads of roots music for a quarter of a century, a rambunctious bunch of rock vagabonds rope in Terry Reid and take the route back home.

– Bergenfield Blues

If compartmentalizing one’s output looks like a game, this American ensemble may be victorious – and not because the band demonstrate various aspects of their stylistic spectrum but thanks to the collective’s ability to create a logical progression between their albums and show their platters’ array as a whole, as opposed to different streaks with the same players behind it all. Which is why their sixth full-length record, titled after the genre its cuts careen to and a New Jerseyan borough the group hail from, would arrive in the wake of "The Twain Shall Meet" that was hung on country-rock hooks, and still sound as rivetingly robust and as familiar to the veterans’ followers… Except for the presence of a certain music legend whom the quintet used to accompany and whose vocals and licks spice a few pieces on display, although the core line-up could seem as impressive on their own.

There’s no need to delve deep to dig this vibe. Voiced by the band’s regular singer Scott Lauro, opener “Where Can She Be” offers a scary thought of how strong the rest of the material should feel if the album’s start is so stunningly strong, the number’s relentless beat carrying a slider-caressed shuffle to spread swagger all around and throw a bridge to instrumentals “Blues 22” and the homage-paying “Greek Mac” – where a twin-guitar weave and organ roar are delicious – further down the line, while the Southern scent of “Aces & 8’s” will turn the platter’s flow into a travelogue of sorts. But then, Ed Rainey’s bell-like six strings bring Terry Reid to the fore for “She Told Me” to up the team’s panache and for “Black Sunrise” – anchored with the ensemble’s leader George Kapitanellis’ rumbling bass and Rob Clores’ simmering Hammond – to add gloom to groove, yet the shimmering, polished “Now That You’re Gone” and more homespun, piano-sprinkled “December To May” find the Englishman’s pipes complement the ensemble’s tremulous, arresting balladry. Here’s a contrast to the boisterous “Arise” which gets high on boogie and the ivories-driven, dynamics-busting “Chop Steak” which exposes a folky undercurrent.

However, the pedal-steel-harnessing “Time Only Tells” delivers a soft blow for a finale, and this graciousness, a characteristic of the entire record, is heartwarming, making “Bergenfield Blues” a thing of breathtaking beauty.


June 15, 2023

Category(s): Reviews
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