Scott Henderson is nothing if not unpredictable. In Tribal Tech and Vital Tech Tones he has distinguished himself as an endlessly creative performer with impeccable musicianship. Well to the Bone also bears a heavy dose of creativity, to be sure, yet many of the selections come off as oddly disconcerting. Despite its label, the disc has been filed away here at AAJ under Fusion instead of Blues because even adamant blues non-purists might shake their heads in confusion.
“Lady P” typifies the experimental side of Henderson’s mutant blues, its constant rhythmic shifts making it nearly impossible to pin down the meter from one bar to the next. Wade Durham’s vocals recall Corey Glover of Living Colour as much as anyone else, and the vocal reverb on “Devil Boy” seems a misguided attempt to pass him off as Jimi Hendrix. Durham sounds like he takes himself too seriously. Thelma Houston fares much better on the straightforward title blues and “Lola Fay.”
Not everything is hot and heavy. “Ashes” is pretty in an off-kilter way, and “Rituals” ends the album on a pleasant note. Of course, there is a good deal of humor involved as well, never more so than on the fun-paced “Hillbilly in the Band,” where the sound of a barking dog keeps interrupting Henderson’s solo. Kicked off by a chant sample, “Sultan’s Boogie” is just about what you’d expect, a hard groove laid over a Middle Eastern mode.
The big problem here might be the sameness of tempo and Henderson’s guitar timbre, which makes much of the disc sound like it’s all cut from the same cloth. It’s the same sort of problem that John Scofield used to have before he expanded his horizons. Odd for Henderson to seem stuck in a rut since he doesn’t evince that problem within his other bands, but it certainly holds him back here. Not a bad album by any means, but not as rich in variety as we’ve grown to expect from him.
Track Listing: Lady P; Hillbilly in the Band; Devil Boy; Lola Fay; Well to the Bone; Ashes; Sultan
Personnel: Scott Henderson, guitar; John Humphrey, bass; Kirk Covington, drums; Scott Kinsey, electronic
percussion; Thelma Houston (#4, 5, 8), Wade Durham (#1, 3, 8), vocals.