JOHN POPPER & THE DUSKRAY TROUBADOURS Self-titled (429 Records)
Working as a bartender at a Santa Fe nightclub in the early ’90s, it was part of my job to set ’ em up for singer/songwriter Jono Manson and his band. It was the first time that blues, or any American roots music, had a deep impact on me. A few years later, I picked up a Blues Traveler album and heard John Popper’s harmonica playing. Soon I had amassed a drawer full of blues harps and more Sonny Boy Williamson recordings than you could shake a Hohner Chromatic at. To discover around the same time that Manson and Popper knew each other and had worked together was no surprise. With the release of this self-titled album produced by Manson, these two prove once again that the alchemy they muster usually leads to audible gold. Recorded and mixed at The Kitchen Sink, Manson’s Chupadero studio, the 12-track album is a diverse mix of ballads (“End of the Line”), pop-and country-influenced toe tappers (“Love Has Made It So,” “All the Way Down”), Southern rockers (“Make It Better,” “Champipple”), and roadhouse barn burners (“Leave It Up to Fate”) that don’t just showcase Popper’s telltale blues-harpisms and frog-in-throat vibrato and Manson’s feverish-yet-meticulous pickin’ and wailin’. The talents of fellow Troubadours Steve Lindsay ( bass), Mark Clark (drums), and Kevin Trainor and Aaron Beavers (guitar) are on full display, and there are plenty of guests musicians to help create a fuller, cleaner, and more approachable sound than you’ll find on any of Manson’s or Popper’s previous recordings.
— Rob DeWalt