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Published: 2002/07/23
by Chip Schramm

Ravin’ Beauties – Bloodkin

Sometimes persistence pays off. Bloodkin seems to be consistently battling
against the odds, as their last two albums have been tormented by record
label infighting and the tragic death of friend and manager Zac Weil.
Dolled Up was a fine example of Bloodkin’s live show, and Gospel Music
Rehab was a somber, yet strong, personal offering from the band. But – with
Ravin’ Beauties – the band has really come full circle, in both the
direction of the songwriting and depth of musical performance. Danny
Hutchens' creative lyrics and Eric Carter's sharp guitar leads have long
complimented each other, but here the production work of David Barbe really
creates strong synergy from all the musicians in the studio.

From the very first song, "New Faces", Bloodkin seems to be indicating
a desire to really produce something fresher than they've turned out in the
past. The continued evolution of the band's current line-up with Paul
"Crumpy" Edwards on bass and Bentley Rhodes on drums radiates confidence on
nearly every track. Though there are a few songs on the album like
"Cheap Speed" and "Liquor Ain't Love" that are reminiscent of
Bloodkin's previous works, the album is well balanced with songs that
showcase the strengths of each member.

"Wide Eyed Kid" is a nostalgic ballad, both sly and heartfelt, as Danny
Hutchens' songs tend to be. Eric Carter's lead vocals on Troutman
make it a shining jewel on the album. Slow but steady, he weaves a fairy
tale story that struts lazily from one verse to the next in a warm and
inviting way. One of the most notable things about Ravin’ Beauties
the strength of each individual song, plus the way they seem to fit
together and compliment each other throughout the course of the whole work.
The title track and "Calling Back" are two of the slower songs on the
album, with the former containing the religious allusions common for
verses and the latter focusing on romantic spiritual rebirth.

But the strongest tracks on the album are the gritty hard-edged rockers
"Comeback Kid (9 lives)" and "Like This". Both are close to the
end of the album, where they serve as a sort of thematic climax.
"Comeback Kid" meshes some of the best songwriting that Hutchens has
recorded to date with extremely tight playing from Carter and Edwards on
their guitar and bass. "Like This" is as dirty and nasty as any song
could be while still carrying weight vocally. Both are the power-ballads
of highwaymen and gamblers, filled with dark allusions just vague enough to
leave an exact interpretation up to the individual listener.

There's no doubt that the unsung hero of this album is producer David Barbe.
The arrangements on the songs are measured well, and the vocal
phrasing is polished, especially on the slower tunes. For a band known for
wild and sometimes inconsistent live performances, this is a huge plus in
their favor. Barbe's use of Jon Cohen and Clay Leverett on backing
keyboard and vocals respectively add subtle touches to many of the tracks
that add a little something extra to the album without any unnecessary
noise. The piano lines on "Like This" are especially eerie
and appropriate.

Ravin’ Beauties could be that album that pulls Bloodkin out of the
This is the album of theirs that newbies should check out. Anyone
who appreciates clever vocals
supported by rowdy guitar and bass lines needs to give this a listen. Fans
who haven't heard the band in a while should be surprised by how far their
studio work has evolved. The original music presented here has potential
to stand the test of time.

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