Album review: BIG BOY BLOATER & THE LIMITS – Luxury Hobo

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BIG BOY BLOATER & THE LIMITS – Luxury Hobo

Provogue [Release date 26.02.16]

‘Luxury Hobo’ finds the former 50′s styled R&B artist and latter-day broadcaster Big Boy Bloater signed up to Provogue records, the guitar heavy, blues-rock label. The result is an unexpected triumph, as Bloater broadens his musical horizons and stretches his talents to a new level on a big production job by Adam Whalley.

All Nine tracks benefit from booming arrangements, sonic resonance, impassioned vocals, stellar guitar – especially his slide playing –  and trademark humorous narratives with a little more depth than you might at first imagine.

Conceptually,  ’Luxury Hobo’ deals with the edge of contemporary living, and the fact we’re all basically confronted with our own unhappiness.

The consequences of such insecurities are mapped out on the B movie titled ‘It Came Out Of The Swamp’, which maps out a ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ scenario. He adds a caustic growl on a song about the wannabe generation called ‘Devils Tail’, as Ben Edwards adds an exuberant electric piano solo in between some of Bloater’s finest slide riffs.

There’s more than a whiff of urban paranoia on ‘I Got The Feeling Someone’s Watching Me’, a hand clapping slice of menacing soul that in a previous generation Alex Harvey might have covered.

Two things stand out about this album. There’s a coherent sense of purpose in Bloater’s all round performance – his vocals are hugely confident and his guitar playing veers from incendiary leads to subtle accompaniment. ‘Luxury Hobo’ also pushes him into a unique contemporary blues niche, full of original ideas with plenty of humour and a dash of irony in a style that is very much his own.

That said, there are significant influences at play – both ‘Luxury Hobo Blues’ and ‘All Things Considered’ owe much to Taj Mahal in terms of feel and vocal phrasing, while the latter track also broaches the white boy soul of JJ Grey.

More importantly, both songs seamlessly fit his own blueprint, as ‘Luxury Hobo’ is a coherent blues album, that moulds his previous R&B and rock & roll style into his own version of contemporary blues. It works well, simply because it uniquely taps into the blues as a feeling or expression of emotion even in the most unusual of circumstance.

By the time BB rips into ‘Robot Girlfriend’, you’re listening to a cooking band immersed in a funky groove, as Bloater adds some weathered vocals and a spiky solo. The album is book ended by the slide opus ‘Not Cool Man’, which is that rare thing, a song with enough substance and balls to rock out and counterweight another stonking slide riff.

It’s a blistering end to an engaging slice of contemporary blues that looks set to belatedly light Bloater’s career fuse. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.  ****

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 20:00


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