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Published: 2008/01/25
by Glenn Alexander

Up All Night (Live) – Brian Stoltz

Long Overdue Records 0003

For many music fans around the world, blues guitar has become synonymous with American music. It has deeply influenced a multitude of genres for decades; here, there, and everywhere. Being a deeply emotional platform, it lends itself to the types of players who need to play as opposed to those who just want to be cool. For that reason, blues guitar has a deeply human aesthetic. It can be flashy, cocky, trippy, or understated, but it’s always human.

On his latest, Up All Night, recorded live in Oakland Park, Florida in 2006, Brian Stoltz proves his worth among the ghosts and current spirits roaming the halls of the blues world. A crack band composed of Carl “Kilmo” Pacillo on bass, Bob Taylor on keys, and Jeff Renza on drums helps consolidate his alchemy into a tight and surprisingly effective band capable of loose and explosive flourishes and seriously deep grooves. “Up All Night” opens things and proves Stoltz can emulate Hendrix while grooving in his own southern and very funky way. The band carries things well, never leaving anything on the table. They’ll sweep the floor right from under you. “Sugar For Me” is a song Stoltz written for his side project with Batiste and Porter from the Meters. Swampy, southern, and intimate “Sugar For Me” staggers along lazily, but maintains an electric vibe that shuffles its way through the thick grove with real Louisiana character.

“Seven Desires” is a long-form blues journey that calls from pop as much as it does from funk or rock music. This slanky groove allows Stoltz breathing room to explore his palette of melody, rhythm, and virtuosity in a way that bellies the song’s simplicity. The wide open space created here allows the other band members to stand out the bass is crisp and deep, while the drums punch and the organ pushes the groove into deeper places. “God, Guns & Money” chastises violence and religion as partners in protection. Essentially a funk and rock platform for mean guitar and a pulsing rhythm, it evokes Stevie Ray Vaughan’s rendition of “Superstition” while maintaining its own presence well enough, though not quite measuring up. It introduces us to a man with not only a message on guitar, but also a memo for God’s followers.

“Hoodoo Thing” encapsulates New Orleans funk in a guitar driven atmosphere. Kilmo’s bass is solid as a rock underneath this rather syncopated song that inches its way up towards a zenith of highly rhythmic and flashy leads from Stoltz. “Ring of Fire” is a reggae send-up of Cash’s classic, and while there’s certainly some artistic license taken here, it moves well enough especially when the guitar is as melodic as it is here. This reggae break also helps illustrate the prowess of the rhythm section, which bounces and pops with real Jamaican style and virtuosity. Ending the show is “All Along The Watchtower”, as much a tribute to Dylan’s singular singing style as it is to the classic cover by Hendrix. Stoltz shreds and bends the strings with abandoned virtuosity and aggression, taking this live album to a close with fire at its heels. By show’s end, Brian Stoltz proves to be among the more accomplished and masterful blues guitarists in America, exhibiting the affecting integrity and intensity required to be wandering the sacred halls of the blues with pride and grit.

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