Straight on Till Morning
First Appeared in The Music Box, June 1998, Volume 5, #6
Written by John Metzger
This is a pretty decent album from Blues Traveler, but unfortunately it verges on being a formulaic remake of Four. The band is extremely tight throughout Straight on Till Morning, and there's no doubt these are great songs. They just pack much more power and conviction in concert than they do on this disc.
This may very well turn out to be a transitional album for Blues Traveler, and it seems to be looking for some new ideas. Some of the latest reports indicate that singer John Popper will play a lot more guitar and a lot less harmonica on the next album. As good as Popper is on harmonica, his signature playing has become less and less of a focus on the band's songs. At the same time, his vocals seem to improve with each album and subsequent tour, and it's his amazing voice that stands out on every song on this disc.
The best example is the hauntingly beautiful ballad Yours. Popper sounds amazingly vulnerable as the song begins. His voice meekly floats above the strumming of his 12-string acoustic guitar. Gradually, Blues Traveler jumps in as does a string section, giving the tune a sweetly majestic, but yearning aura of unrequited love.
Chan Kinchla seems to be experimenting with some different guitar techniques, tool. Blues Traveler has added an acoustic set to many of its concerts, and since the release of Four, Kinchla has learned to play guitar in the style of the Allman Brothers Band for concert versions of The Mountains Win Again. (Warren Haynes performs on the album). He brings this style to The Gunfighter with excellent results. Likewise, Bob Sheehan has an added buoyancy in his bass playing these days, and this is evident throughout Straight on Till Morning, and Brendan Hill's solid drumming anchors each song with brilliant precision.
As usual, Popper's lyrics drive home the spirit of each song. He always has had a special knack for working in portions, themes, and characters of children's stories and nursery rhymes, and these are scattered everywhere on Straight on Till Morning. Even the title is drawn from Peter Pan. His references add a playful aspect to some of more the serious notions that lie beneath the surface of the material.
In short, Straight on Till Morning isn't Blues Traveler's best album, and it may be a bit formulaic. Even so, it's an enjoyable disc with some outstanding songs that are sure to stay in the band's repertoire for years to come. ½
Of Further Interest...
Straight on Till Morning is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 1998 The Music Box