WZMG is not a radio station, and the Coot is not a DJ. Rather, they constitute a blues-rock outfit from Orange County, Calif. Blues Transmission
is the group's debut CD, and it offers an unusual potpourri of styles – everything from blues-rock to prog-rock to jazz-fusion to folk-pop.
About half of this album works for me, the other half doesn’t, but the good stuff is really good. Likable tracks includes "Sold My Soul," a gospel-tinged rocker that wouldn't sound out of place on classic rock radio. The Latin-jazzy instrumental "Casa del Sol" contains some neat guitar exchanges between Greg Watmore and some dude named Nils whose last name isn't provided. "Survival" is a nice piano-tinged rock ballad with attractive vocals from Ted Zahn. I absolutely love the reggae take on Sonny Boy Williamson's "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl." The best track, however, is "W.C. Meadows," a jazz instrumental that blends a blues shuffle beat, Latin and ska interludes, searing guitar, and a very cool trombone solo by Dave Woodley. This song alone is worth the price of admission.
Unfortunately, WZMG's transmission is a bit weak on the remaining songs. "Daniel Kane" and "Hexagonal Bends" aim for a Frank Zappa vibe but end up sounding pretentious. Blues numbers "Born Under a Bad Sign," "The Vapors" and Freeway Cosmetological Myopia" are hampered by keyboards that sound too synthesized. Here's a piece of advice for up-and-coming blues bands: If you can't afford a real organ, stick to acoustic piano. Blues and synthesizers go together like oil and water.
Despite some negatives, Blues Transmission
is better than 90% of the independent releases that come my way.