The Ground­hogs

Blues Obit­u­ary (50th An­niver­sary)

Classic Rock - - The Hard Stuff - Kris Needs

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.

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