Followers of Stone Soup have been waiting for what must feel like forever for them to release an album. The group got together three years ago, started shopping a very serious demo and, raising the devil’s own hell, have been a hands-down hit since day one thanks to that most reliable medium: word of mouth. Small wonder: blues rockers don’t come any stronger than these guys. Some bands are as strong, but, bet the ranch, no one brings it any stronger.
Finally, the wait for an album is over with the arrival of Roots, a dozen cuts strong as sulfuric acid. There’s not one filler or throwaway number on the whole thing.
“Ramblin’ On My Mind” leads the album off to the tune of bonafide, get-up-and-drop-down boogie. Hard-charging rhythm (drummer Brett Behrens and bass player Chris Hunnicutt locked in the pocket) pumped by a funky hook, laced with downright evil slide guitar (Drew Druckrey) and powered by Hunnicutt’s fiery vocal. Derek Rohlf delivers that classic B3 Hammond sound on keys and guitarist Marc Nicpon strokes tight rhythm.
“Ramblin’” gets you ready for a heapin’ helping of damned good music, and the rest of the album doesn’t disappoint. Take “Ain’t No Depth To My Sorrow,” a gospel-drenched original by Hunnicutt with Druckrey snaking in a down-in-the-alley Chicago-blues solo—or Rohlf’s hellified honky-tonk ballad “I Remember.” And then there’s “Woman Made of Gold,” silky-smooth R&B funk with a smidgen of Santana-style guitar thrown into the mix as Druckery takes off with a taste of some real sweet nastiness. Not to mention “The Other Side Of Love,” a true throwback to the days of classic rock (we called it “underground” back in the 70s, when FM radio came into its heyday). The song’s rolling rhythm puts you in mind of the Allman Brothers’ “Whippin’ Post” and Druckrey’s strident vocal harks to the Doobie Brothers’ “Long Train Running” (not to underplay Stone Soup’s originality—everybody has influences). Check out Nicpon’s tasty lead: economic, articulate and dead on time. For good measure, the boys throw in a few fine covers, putting their own flavor on Pink Floyd’s “Have a Cigar,” the Black Crowes’ “Wiser Time,” and seminal bluesman Son House’s “Death Letter.”
A tip of the hat is due to producer Jonathan Earl, who captures Stone Soup to a tee—giving the band’s voice crystal clarity. It didn’t hurt that Earl also engineered the recording (quiet as it’s kept, many a honcho in charge owes his or her acumen to the guy or gal behind the boards).
Bottom line: Roots is one of those rare offerings for which die-hard music lovers who dig blues-rock will be, as the phrase goes, eternally grateful.
Dwight Hobbes is a writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the TC Daily Planet.