The Upshot: The Southern rockers not only discovered songcraft, they also realized it didn’t need get in the way of their natural energy.
BY MICHAEL TOLAND
Southern-fried rock & rollers Blackfoot Gypsies have made a big impression with their live shows, but have yet to make the same mark on record. That changes with the Nashville cats’ third LP To the Top. The band has never had trouble capturing its live lightning in the studio, but the high voltage has seemed to go to supporting songs that sounded cranked out only to ensure that the group had something to play onstage.
That’s not the case here. Frontman Matthew Paige and his cohorts instead craft tunes that would have staying power if performed on an acoustic guitar, then inject them with enough atomic blast to light up the power grid. “I Had a Vision,” “Lying Through Your Teeth” and “Promises to Keep” sound like Detroit power rock filtered through Nashville songwriting factories, with well-developed melodies and lyrics that don’t short-circuit the roar. The Gypsies also take more comfortable jaunts down more explicitly rootsy paths. “Potatoes and Whiskey” and “Velvet Low Down Blues” evoke the spirit of old-time C&W without sounding like pastiches, and “I’m So Blue” and the banjo-driven “I’ve Got the Blues” soak blue to the bone – the latter in particular could have come off a compilation of obscure ‘50s blues tracks. “Gypsy Queen” revives the Bo Diddley beat without smacking us over the head with it, and “Why Should I Try” gives Southern rock a soulful spin.
All of it’s done with the respect that should be afforded tradition, but not the reverence that might interfere with the band making these sounds their own. To the Top sounds like Blackfoot Gypsies not only discovered songcraft, but realized it didn’t need get in the way of their natural energy.
DOWNLOAD: “I Had a Vision,” “Velvet Low Down Blues,” “I’ve Got the Blues”