I last saw GA-20 in January, playing a cozy Atlanta club in support of their sophomore record Try It… You Might Like It: GA-20 Does Hound Dog Taylor– one of the rare tribute albums that justifies its existence, honoring the singular, out-there bluesman while cementing the Boston outfit’s reputation as a contemporary blues band that gets the point: At its best, the genre is song-centric, understated, and direct, not an occasion for unchecked jams.
Singer-guitarist Pat Faherty, guitarist Matt Stubbs, and drummer Tim Carman maintained fealty to their vision of the blues, blasting through a concise, relentless setlist. After a few songs, Faherty announced the next song– “By My Lonesome”— was from their upcoming album, and the band proceeded to rip through a waylay that took the fury and finesse of Little Richard and Chuck Berry, finding eternity in a 2-minute blaze. The audience began to pile their scarves and jackets into a corner.
Crackdown arrived this month– just in time for the year’s first hints of cooler weather– a warm, mover of a record that delivers on the promise of “By My Lonesome.” With 10 songs in 28 minutes (that’s less than a beer run) the album wastes no time on blues lawyer filigree. Instead, a the-hits-keep-coming momentum reveals a band that’s fully operational, outpacing any comparisons between them and other contemporary blues revival acts.
GA-20 still finds revelation in Chicago blues mid-tempo fire like “Gone For Good” and “I Let Someone In”, but Crackdown attains its heartbeat when the band finds epiphany in rock n’ roll’s nascent years. There are tender moments: “Dry Run”— with forlorn vocals reminiscent of the more vulnerable moments of King Khan and BBQ’s catalog— is a gentle sway that recalls the street corner croon and naivete of doo wop; the album’s sole cover, Lloyd Price’s “Just Because”, is another lovely slow-dance swoon.
Elsewhere, the band howls, a Bo Diddley beat powering “Double Gettin’” and a brooding pout muscling lead track, the Nuggets-friendly “Fairweather Friend”. Yet the band is at its most capable, fun, and convincing on the title track, a back-to-basics instrumental, its greasy groove and slinky guitar evoking any number of midnight misdeeds.
Try it. You might like it. I’ll take your jackets.