J.A. Granelli is a bassist of great subtlety; his backing band, Mr. Lucky, is small and versatile. This album contains nine pieces that range from alt.countrified jazz (or jazzified alt.country, not quite sure there) to New Orleans-ish funky-esque strut to straight-ahead blues-ish atmospherical soft-leaning fusiony I-don't-know-what.
As you can tell, it's kinda hard to categorize. I would not be surprised to find some Bill Frisell in Granelli's CD collection; but I'd also anticipate some Grateful Dead, some Mark Knopfler, a stray disc by Ernest Ranglin or Augustus Pablo, definitely some Meters, Chuck Mangione, Wilco, Bob Wills, Robert Cray, John McLaughlin and Miles Davis, maybe even some Mogwai or Lee Morgan. Not to say he puts all these together in every trackthings veer from one mood to another here rather than attaining any kind of unified-field zone. But it's all pretty lovable nonetheless.
Granelli is happy enough as a bandleader and composer, so he doesn't feel the need to go soloing all over the joint, even when he picks up the piccolo bass on a couple of tracks. Most of the fire goes to Brad Shepik, who does all kinds of crazy things on his guitar, from his metallic shredding on opener "Fortunate Son" to his more ambient noodling on pieces like "Torso."
Nate Shaw often takes lovely organ lines on the slower pieces, but I'm in love with his Jimmy Smith Hammond chops on "Long Hair" and the way he makes "Sum Song (Gil)" sound like the best church ever. And I better give the drummer some: Mike Sarin plays any kind of style like that's his style.
But the real MVP here is Gerald Wenke on the pedal steel. He plays on less than half the songs, but his impact is huge. His delicate work turns "My True Love" into a real weeper of a slow jam. I love how the band just lets him go off for a bunch of bars during the spooky blues piece called "Lazy Eye." But the best thing is when he joins up with the whole band when they're in bombast mode. "Hope for Junior" is the longest cut here, and the hugesteveryone just joins in, blasting huge power chords and strong lines, scattering the villagers with boiling hot oil. Or something like that.
This is not the kind of thing that you could play for your jazz-nerd Uncle Sal from New Jersey, because he'd say, "Aw I don't listen to that country stuff." And you better not play it for Aunt Earline when you visit her in El Paso, because she'll complain that she can't hear the two-step in there anywhere. And yeah, it's too quiet by half, and yeah, it seems kind of formless, and yeah, it needs a bit more Mingus and Monk in it. But if you are brave and true, and you don't mind a little genre-bending here and there, this disc sure is something to hear.
Fortunate Son; Lazy Eye; Hope for Junior; Happy Pt. 3 (Lana); Long Hair; Torso; Sum Song
(Gil); My True Love; The Row Boat Stomp (Lola).
J.A. Granelli: bass, piccolo bass; Brad Shepik: guitar; Nate Shaw: Hammond B3 organ, Fender
Rhodes; Gerald Menke: pedal steel guitar; Mike Sarin: drums.