Quarto Valley 2023
After a long gestation of their album number one, a trinity of Lone Star State string-benders conspire to stand up in the stirrups of the blues.
The longer the itch the greater the relief when you make it go away, and the feeling which results from quenching such sensory fire must be special, which is why, rather than out of platter-related abstinence or suspense-building, three guitar-wielding friends, who have been trading licks and riffs for fourteen years now weren’t in a hurry to record their interplay until creative rawness demanded an outlet. However, opting for eponymous full-length debut under the TEXAS SCRATCH moniker, Buddy Whittington of THE BLUESBREAKERS fame, Vince Converse of SUNSHINE HEIGHTS and Jim Suhler from THE DESTROYERS demonstrate no sign of effort involved in the shaping of this offering. The veterans strut their original, and borrowed, stuff with much gusto and pressure-cooking reserve, but without pandering to Southern rock clichés and without throwing a lasso to rope in a sated listener.
Irresistible in their unpretentious delivery, yet not self-sufficient in terms of ensemble performance – there are another Destroyer, drummer Jeff Simon, and former SAVOY BROWN bassist Nathaniel Peterson to lock into a series of mighty grooves – the six-string-packing core don’t take themselves too seriously, as the boogie of “I’d Rather Be Lucky Then Good” suggests with a lot of twangy swagger. They are far from self-aggrandizing in opener “Texas Trios” which doesn’t pretend that SCRATCH belong in this category, while namechecking the members of ZZ TOP, DOUBLE TROUBLE and similar line-ups, including NITZINGER whose “Louisiana Cock Fight” finds the lads splice their voices and whip up fretboard harmonies instead of spreading the material between the three of them. Still, the prevailing good-time rumble will not get in the way of the record’s other cover, the mellifluously smoldering, organ-bolstered and acoustically laced “What The Devil Loves” from King Solomon Hicks’ repertoire, baring their soft underbelly and showing their attention to what younger artists do – but then, Jim, Buddy and Vince sound youthfully invigorating on “Trip Hammer” where their solos politely vie for space instead of soaring.
Yet if “Purple Mountain Flask” slowly sweats pseudo-redneck panache into its calypso-like undercurrent, the merry mini-epic “Evil (Do Right By You)” feeds funky jive to swampy figures in which the musicians’ differing tones come to the surface, before the equally jovial “Ain’t Got The Scratch” allows Whittington, Converse and Suhler to boast in style and to toast their existence, and the almost-unplugged, scintillating and loose, “Showdown” hints at their ability to embrace Chicago jazz-tinged blues as well as they do Texas one. Parochial “Scratch” isn’t, and the platter’s appeal should attract a massive audience to this album.