Album review: CURLY WOLF – Calling Your Bluff

CURLY WOLF – Calling Your Bluff

The Curly Wolf  [Release date 07.08.15]

‘Our aim is to show that there is more to country music than radio pop lets you believe’. Curly Wolf hammers home their sense of purpose with a defining mission statement and from the opening power of ‘Calling ‘Your Bluff’ you can see why. They draw on rock, country and hardcore punk, but they never fall short of a great melody and the true spirit of Rock & roll.

Sometimes they use traditional instruments such a banjo, fiddle, mandolin in a powerhouse style that tears genres asunder, but they always places the emphasis on harmony singing over the metronomic powerful rhythm section of drummer Mike Bouchard and bass player Matt Pliskin

On ‘Grind It ‘Till You Find It’ they tap onto the commercial hardcore of heartland rock, the current label on which Nashville hangs country rock, while the up tempo ‘Diesel Blood’ is an unlikely fusion of punk and country, and ‘Grow American’ is full of vim, vigour, real passion and an unlikely Mariachi trumpet.

Of course you could argue that they are late arrivals on a roots rock scene that has housed everyone from The Long Ryders to the alt. country styling of 16 Horse Power, and more recently heavier Anders Osborne, but they do have depth of songs to leave their own unique imprint. So while the melodic refrain of ‘I’ve Won’ does sound like several other bands, ‘Cadillac 62’ is a blistering country rocker wholly of their own making.

Front man Grant Benzinger phrases passionately on ‘Fall Back Down’, as the band cleverly incorporates a lap steel into a ripping arrangement, while the same instrument lies at the core of the more relaxed country ballad ‘ICU’,  a song big on harmonies but in search of a memorable chorus.

By the time of ‘Meet Me At The Gasser, we’re into up tempo traditional country with some hot picking, but they finish defiantly on the magnificent ‘Radio Silence’.  It’s a song with an independent message: “I don’t want to be, I don’t want to say, something I can’t look at no more’.

Benziger delivers his best performance on a lovely anthemic style waltz, with essential stream of consciousness lyrics: ‘Consensus is Texas, we’ve got a new play list now, worry no more, it’s a 100 years war I’m responsible for, coming through with nothing but the clothes that I wore, I can’t take it anymore’.

It’s the way the band charts a path through  musical diversity before hitting bulls-eye on the concluding track that puts them above their contemporaries.

They say the best is always worth waiting for and you can almost extend the point from this particular track to the band as a whole, as contemporary roots rock never sounded better.  ****

Review by Pete Feenstra

Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 19:00


In his show broadcast on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio on 10 May David Randall played a further selection of artists and albums included in the new Features series, “2020 Vision”.


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