The Bluefields – Pure

January 01, 1970

(Underground
Treehouse Records)

 

www.thebluefields.com

 

Probably
the closest that the Nashville rock scene has ever come to the birth of a bona
fide “supergroup,” the Bluefields comprise former Georgia Satellites’
frontman Dan Baird (who, more recently, fronts his own Dan Baird and Homemade
Sin band); Jason & the Scorchers’ charismatic guitarslinger Warner E. Hodges
(also a Homemade Sin band member); and singer/songwriter Joe Blanton, formerly
of such beloved Music City rock ‘n’ roll institutions as the Enemy and Royal
Court of China. All three men have a lot of miles under their belts, all three
have experienced the fragile joys of a major label record deal, and all three
have pursued solo careers with varying degrees of success. Nevertheless, their
individual pedigrees are impeccable…

 

That these
three musicians came together is an act of provenance, perhaps, or maybe just
the Holy Trinity (Chuck, Elvis & Bob) looking down from the Mount Olympus
of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Blanton had returned to Nashville after a decade-long hiatus
spent in the hinterlands pursuing the brass ring with an acclaimed, albeit
impoverishing solo career. Blanton reconnected with his teenage pal Hodges (the
two cutting their musical teeth together on the roughneck late ’70s Nashville
punk scene), the guitarist in turn introducing Joe to Dan, the three
subsequently finding acres of common ground. As these things happen, they
decided to write and play together ’cause, well, that’s what rock lifers do,
and the trio convened to Blanton’s secret, subterranean recording studio,
dubbed by the newly-formed Bluefields as the “underground tree
house.”

 

I’m not
sure whether it was the trio’s rapidly-formed musical chemistry, or if jars of
pure-D white lightning corn liquor were passed around the basement studio, but Pure, the Bluefields’ debut album,
serves up a righteous helping of shit-kickin’, guitar-driven, Southern-fried
twang-rock that fans of both the Satellites and the Scorchers will nod their
collective heads in approval of, although the Bluefields really sound nothing
like either of those bands. Blanton takes the lead vocals on most of the
tracks, the man really one of the best singers in the Music City, criminally
overlooked among the glut of clones marching in lockstep through the halls of
the record label offices that line Nashville’s notorious “Music Row.”

 

Hodges
does what he’s always done best, and that is to bash and mangle that plank of
wood and steel, tearing sounds out of his instrument previously unheard of by
man nor beast while Baird, the M.V.P. of any session he’s involved with, plays
the fat-string, adds a little of his trademark Keith Richards-styled rhythm
guitar where needed, pitches in on backing vocals, and even adds keyboards if
necessary. Friend of the band Steve Gorman, from the currently-on-hiatus Black
Crowes, adds his thunderous drumbeats to the majority of the songs. The bottom
line, though, is that regardless of the talent assembled, it’s the music that
matters…and Pure offers up more than
a few surprises.

 

The album
kicks off with “What You Won’t Do,” the song’s brief instrumental
intro displaying more than a few strains of Led Zeppelin’s Eastern-fueled
musical mysticism. When the band kicks in, Gorman’s blast-beats ring loudly and
the intertwined guitars are simply smothering. The instrumentation is thick,
like an intoxicating smoke, the arrangement more than a little Zeppelinesque
but with more twang and bang for your buck, mixing roots-and-hard-rock with a
bluesy undercurrent to great effect. The jaunty “Bad Old Days” is
both a gripping morality tale and a humorous page straight out of the Dan Baird
songbook. With a rolling, Southern boogie-flavored soundtrack, the lyrics
recall a tale of woe that all three band members have lived in one manner or
another. Sobriety doesn’t come easy, those crazy old days are in the rear view
mirror, and with guitars that swing with anarchic glee, “Bad Old
Days” is an unbridled rocker tailor-made for radio…if radio still played
rock ‘n’ roll, that is…

 

“Don’t
Let Me Fall” is an old-school romantic ballad, the sort of song that, with
enough hairspray and metallic hooks, would have had the spandex-clad
bottle-blondes pulling out their lighters twenty-five years ago. In these days
and times, though, Blanton’s vocals are timelessly heartworn, Hodges’ Duane
Eddy-styled background riffs a perfect accompaniment. The band doesn’t stay
morose for long, though, launching directly into “Nobody Loves You,”
a pop-tinged rollicking boogie-rocker with a ’80s new wave vibe built on a spry
rhythm, ambitious rolling drumbeats, and shards of wiry guitar.

 

By this
time in the album’s sequencing, the Bluefields sound like they’re having way
too much fun, a hypothesis easily proven by the Zep-styled reprise of
“Repair My Soul,” a larger than life, foot-stomping hard-rocker.
Built on a foundation of dirty Delta blues, the song is raised to the heavens
on the strength of intricate (and inordinately heavy) guitars that sound like a
clash of the titans, and Gorman’s unbelievable drum tones, which sound eerily
like the angry ghost of John Bonham banging on the cans. With lyrics dealing
with sin and salvation, if this one doesn’t scorch the hair from your head and
get your feet a moving, then you’re probably deaf (or a Justin Bieber
fan…shudder).   

 

As good a
song and performance as “Repair My Soul” may be…and make no mistake
true believers, it’s one of the best rock songs you’ll hear in your lifetime…the
Bluefields trio scale the heights of the aforementioned Mount Olympus with the
incredible “Flat Out Gone.” A runaway locomotive of choogling
guitars, racing drumbeats, defiant vocals, and swaggering rhythms, one can hear
the entirety of the pantheon of rock heroes channeled through each and every
note: Chuck Berry, Duane Eddy, Gene Vincent & the Bluecaps, Eddie Cochran,
Big Joe Turner, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Roy Orbison, the Rolling
Stones, the Who, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bob Seger, Bo Diddley, Johnny
Burnette, Ike Turner, Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup, Doug Sahm, Link Wray,
Mitch Ryder, Elmore James, the Yardbirds, the Band, Bob Dylan, and the almighty
Elvis himself. The song is three minutes and twenty-two seconds of pure,
unvarnished rock ‘n’ roll cheap thrills, the likes of which come around far too
infrequently these days for my tastes and, I’m betting, your tastes too…

 

There’s
more, much more to be heard on Pure,
the album probably the best example you’ll ever hear of three guys getting
together and making music for the sheer joy of it all. Every note played, every
word sung, every beat of the drum is the result of lives lived in thrall to the
muse of rock ‘n’ roll, albeit with a distinctively Southern perspective. As a
result, Pure lives up to its name,
the album probably the purest expression of reckless country soul that’s ever
been carved into wax.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Repair My Soul,” “Bad Old
Days,” “Flat Out Gone” – REV. KEITH A. GORDON

 

 

 

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