The Soledad Brothers - Voice Of Treason

The Soledad Brothers
Voice Of Treason

Released 2004 on Sanctuary
Reviewed by Dave Furgess, 09/03/2008ce

1. Cage That Tiger
2. The Elucidator
3. Lowdown Streamline
4. Sons Of Dogs
5. Lay Down This World
6. Only Flower In My Bed
7. Boogie With Viner
8. Sights Unseen
9. On Time
10. I'm So Glad
11. Ain't It Funny
12. Handle Song
13. Lorali

The Soledad Brothers:

Johnny Walker-guitar, vocals
Ben Swank-Drums
Oliver Henry-guitar, saxophone

The Soledad Brothers were a fabulous trio from Toledo, Ohio (the home of the Toledo Mud Hens and former home base for Uptown Soda, one of my favorite drinks as a kid.) Sadly the Soledads ceased operations recently but luckily they left behind several excellent albums, all of which I can recommend highly. The Soledads were a no holds barred stripped down rock & roll unit with roots in folk blues, rock and roll and avant garde jazz. Some of the group's main influences were The Rolling Stones, Dock Boggs, Dr. John, John Coltrane, Albert Ayler and others. To me they were the closest any modern group came to duplicating the spirit of the glorious "Teenage Head" era Flamin' Groovies. I think what set the Soledads apart from the crowd was their diverse influences and clear understanding of rock & roll dynamics. Not to mention Johnny Walker plays the greatest Keith Richard licks this side of Keef himself. For my money these guys were streets ahead of The White Stripes.

"Voice Of Treason" might just be their most rocking and consistent album and there are ain't a bum track in sight. Here's a blow by blow summary:

1. "Cage That Tiger" this one opens the set in fine style, with a super distorted guitar riff and rockin' beat. Walker rips at his axe like a young James Williamson and his vocal style reminds me of the great Roy Loney. The fuzz drenched guitar solo in the mid section is not to be missed!

2. "The Elucidator" Walker and Co. do a down home preachin' blues with this scuzzy gem, I'm reminded of Savoy Brown during their "Raw Sienna" period when Chris Youlden was their singer. Nice and greasy!!!

3. "Lowdown Streamline" This one stomps right out of the gate like the great lost 1980's group The Pontiac Brothers. Lots of driving piano and slaughtered guitar chords.

4. "Sons Of Dogs" This is a loose, slow blues that sounds like a mixture of Marc Bolan and Roscoe Holcomb. Try this one with a cold Miller High Life and a paper sack of greasy fries.

5. "Lay Down This World" This is one of the real high points on the album, the Soledads go for an old time gospel stomp that would lead a corpse back to church on Sunday. This sounds like it was recorded in the hills of West Virginia, which is probably what the group were aiming at.

6. "Only Flower In My Bed" is a basically a rewrite of Robert Johnson's "Love In Vain" via The Spacemen 3. The lonesome organ and brass are played with real feeling. Very similar to The Rolling Stones "Let It Bleed" era.

7. "Boogie With Viner" is a brief piano interlude which sounds like one of those briefs out-takes from Bob Dylan's "genuine" Basement Tapes.

8. "Sights Unseen" is a slow creepy blues piece that also enters Spacemen 3/Jesus & Mary Chain territory, it drives along with a simple guitar phrase and bare bones percussion.

9. "On Time" is a good timey number with the raw guitar sound of the early Gun Club and a graveyard beat that brings to mind early Flamin' Groovies numbers such as "Love Have Mercy" & "Doctor Boogie." Blues with feeling and none of that Stevie Ray Yawn nonsense!

10. "I'm So Glad" is a beautiful rendition of the Skip James classic. The Soledads stick to the original arrangement and not the overkill tactics of Cream & The Maze. It's all over in a flash. Skip James would be proud of this version as it is the best cover ever of his great song.

11. "Ain't It Funny" captures the raw Chicago blues feel of Fleetwood Mac's "Mr. Wonderful" album before it collides head on with Savoy Brown's "Hellbound Train."

12. "Handle Song" is the album's chosen single and it's a great choice as it's an irresistible blast of good time rockin' blues played with a shuffle beat. The video for this song is incredible, it shows the group pounding it out amongst a backdrop of footage of ultra cool Toledeo. I must say Toldeo looks as cool as Youngstown, Ohio. I must make it there for my next vacation. Johnny Walker looks like a trim version of 1966 era Jerry Garcia in the video.

13. "Lorali" closes the album is beautiful fashion, this piece is just flat out of sight! It begins as a acoustic blues ballad that recalls the 13th Floor Elevators eerie & underrated "Bull Of The Woods" album. The song stops cold about 3 minutes in and all becomes silence, but don't turn your player off because after several minutes of "dead air" the song returns from the grave at the 13:30 mark in a haze of psychedelic electric blues that sounds like a Quicksilver Messenger Service bootleg from 1968. I only wish they dedicated 20 minutes to this jam because it is nothing short of awesome!

"Voice Of Treason" is just one of several fantastic records by this bunch. Sadly the Soledads are no more, but not to worry as Johnny Walker has regrouped with a new outfit called The Cut In The Hill Gang and they are fantastic! Their version of "Jivin' Sister Fanny" is even better than The Stones version. I think they are based in northern Kentucky now, keep an eye out for them!

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