Blues Obituary (50th Anniversary)
Transformative second album exhumed again. This 50th anniversary reissue of The Groundhogs’ second album, from 1969, sees singer-guitarist Tony McPhee, bassist Pete Cruikshank and drummer Ken Pustelnik shifting their bluespurist goggles and lighting the fuse to landmark records Thank Christ For The Bomb and Split.
Although McPhee could never let go of his beloved gutbucket blues, here the trio are obviously straining at the leash to forge a new sound built around Pustelnik’s jazz-infused back beats dogfighting with Cruikshank’s liquid bass lines, sometimes tumbling into precarious improvisation on Daze Of The Weak as McPhee takes his playing into the unknown before it all falls apart.
They’re on familiar John Lee Hooker-style stomp-blues turf on Mistreated, but the slide boogie of Times and the scathing Express Man inject the morose melodic edge that will define future Groundhogs albums.
Only the album’s sole cover, a slow reworking of Howlin’ Wolf’s 1956 disaster narrative Natchez Burning, survives the band’s blues cremation, their nascent breakout flying highest on tribal-slide blowout finale Light Was The Day.
The single version of the evocatively dynamic album opener and strongest track BDD and McPhee’s solo B-side Gasoline provide the extras (sadly no out-takes), but nonetheless the album is a vital document of a great band approaching their peak.