The liner notes for Open Bones’ CD Live Music indulge in quite a bit of oversell: “In the winter of 2006 the Open Bones banded together and began playing post-war, electric rockin’ jukebox blues by the likes of Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, and Chuck Berry. They figured that the Beatles and Stones started with this America Music, so why not see where it would take the Open Bones.” The notes go on to state that for Live Music, “All vocals, leads, drum fills and intricate bass patterns were recorded live, without any overdubs…the music is as real as it gets.”
Recorded in 2008 at What’s Hennepin Studios, this disc showcases the band serviceably holding its own, but don’t hold your breath looking for signs of down-in-the-alley Chicago blues or quintessential rock ‘n’ roll. Rather, Open Bones echo—unremarkably at that—the 1980s emergence of Los-Angeles-spawned country/soft rockers. For instance, “We Come From the Sky” sounds like a reworking of Pure Prairie League’s top-40 hit “Aimee.” Similarly, “Beautiful” brings to mind Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, except that in the first verse the drummer drops time. So does “Jump Into the Sun,” only, instead of the drummer missing his mark, the vocalist couldn’t hit the melody with a tennis racket.
On the bright side, the songwriting works, and these guys can play. It just wouldn’t’ve hurt for them to do a few more takes. The personnel are Phil Bayer (vocals, guitar), Sid Gasner (lead guitar, vocals), Kevin Mummy (drum, vocals), and Paul Tinjum (bass). Bayer’s a sophomoric lyricist, but make no mistake, he crafts solid melodies over emotive chord figures. Gasner is tasty and inventive. Mummy, save that gaffe on “Beautiful,” propels solidly. In the pocket with him, Tinjum knows what he’s doing.
There’s reason to believe that Open Bones would have a strong CD on their hands if they’d taken their time and recorded the songs right instead of just doing them right now—especially if Bayer, who has a distinct voice, had gone back in and redone half the tracks. Ultimately, unless you’re friend or family to a member of the band, you should pass on this one.
Dwight Hobbes is a writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the Daily Planet.