How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Bloozotomy is a jumpin’ four-piece outfit from Burlington, Vermont, with plenty of talent and a profusion of personality. The latter emanates from Jim Branca, the group’s singer, guitarist and songwriter.
The energetic Branca is part Louis Prima, part John Belushi, part upbeat philosopher. His outlook is best summarized by these lines from his song "Dancin’ Through This House": "Life to me is too important to take so damn seriously. It’s a mystery we celebrate, don’t want to agonize, don’t want to speculate, just want you to share it with me."
Such sentiments seem downright profound coming from a bluesman, and they might lead you to conclude that Bloozotomy's music is mellow and reflective. Believe me, there ain't a mellow bone in these four bodies. Ain’t Dead Yet swings hard from start to finish, and Branca's eight original tunes are just as compelling as the four well-chosen covers.
Branca must be a really big dude, 'cause he owns a really big voice. Only a big dude can do justice to Willie Dixon’s "300 Hundred Pounds of Joy," Merle Travis’ "16 Tons," Roy Brown’s "Good Rockin’ Tonight" and Charles Calhoun’s "Shake, Rattle & Roll." Branca makes each of these songs his own.
His original tunes touch a variety of styles. "Tribal Obligation" is a blues shuffle that espouses nonconformity. The group combines rap, funk and gospel on "I Shouted When It Hit Me." "Love Me Baby, or Get Outta My Face" is a Brave Combo-like number featuring a klezmer-style performance from saxman Lenny "The Lip" Maskowski. The versatile Maskowski even plays flute on "Wherever You Go, That’s Where You’ve Been," a surrealistic excursion in jazzed-up blues.
You have to admire any group of musicians who can keep up with the free-spirited Branca. This man is apt to launch into a spontaneous wacky scat a la Louis Prima before returning temporarily to the structure of the song at hand. But Makowski, Matty Nerbak (drums and percussion) and Mike Bernal (basses) more than keep pace. "The Lip" deserves special commendation for his masterful blowing on every type of saxophone imaginable. And Branca is nearly as energetic a guitarist as he is a singer.
Bloozotomy is a smart, adventurous band that uses jump-blues as its launching pad. Few jump outfits are this creative, or this much fun.