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Non-Prog CD Reviews

The Strange Tones

We're On Our Way

Review by Larry Toering

Introducing the merchants of Strange, this outfit call themselves a “crime-a-billy” act, and it only gets more strangely peculiar from there. The Strange Tones are no ordinary run of the mill contemporary blues band, as they cleverly combine it with surf, spy, rockabilly, a bit of new wave in sort of a comical B-52s way, and traditional blues, as well. If that doesn't call for a perfect blend of hotness, I don't know what people up here in the northwest are listening to of the local variety that can beat it. They go by the names of Andy Strange, Guitar Julie, JD Huge(respectively replaced) and last but not least, Suburban Slim. What a bunch of characters this is with the utmost awesome skills to go with their uniquely killer act. This is an album with not one bum note in sight, and a must hear by anyone into the blues and old fashioned rock combos that are brave and daring enough to come out this modern in the process. This band are as seriously good as they are funny.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Mama Makes More
This features vocals and harp by well known northwesterner Curtis Salgado, as he adds just the right touch to Guitar Julie's lead. This has Portland, traditional and hot contemporary blues written all over it, along with that “crime-a-billy” touch that makes everything they do with their styles sound so original. This is playful, yet down right seriously hot stuff.
Fool Me
Hanging around closer to traditional factors, this is once again playful, with added Hammond organ by Mike Walker. The guitar attack comes on very strong here as it proceeds to rip up one side of the track and down the other with both lower and searing high registers. The vocals on display are also sultry and hot to trot here.
I Ain't Movin'
With things getting hot enough as it is already at this point on the disc, this is where they become their most playful, with some of the funniest lyrics around. There’s no way you can listen to this and not only get off on the tune, but laugh you will at its lyrics. “Take your things and put 'em in a sack / And don't let the door hit you in the butt crack.” Once again Wallace provides organ. The first time I heard it, everyone in the room laughed the second he sang that.
We're On Our Way
The title track is an excellent instrumental done in total crime-a-billy fashion, with everything from spy and surf blues to spacey rock factors going for it. It serves my ears as a signature tune for them.
Hooky
This features a killer harp from Jim Wallace, and an equally brilliant performance from Guitar Julie. She comes across most effectively on this, as only her humorous self can do. I love the open string touch as well. In fact, I love the whole thing from top to bottom and can't get enough of it.
Kathryn's Style
The guitar comes on at its cleanest with this track, yet it still combines a dirty tone, which only one out of so many Strange Tones cuts feature. This is another fine performance by all, but likely the most straightforward rocking blues tune on the disc.
That's How We Roll
Sticking to traditional factors, they make their own here, as they carry on about their bad selves and how they get to their shows, in an Astro Van. This rocks and jumps all over the place with more of that searing guitar, as well as being a very percussive track. By now, perfection has absolutely set in.
Farmer Trent's Wife
This adds all the more laughter to the set, as it serves to be a live showstopper. I have so much fun with these songs, and the chorus here is a big example of how I manage that with every listen. This is as gritty, powerful and sassy as they get, with Andy Strange providing harp.
The Swangler
This continues the strength and power to be found on the previous track, and features vocals from Katya Woolley and Patty Klindt. It's another beefy number with a rollicking rhythm section and guitars sweeping each other about. The heat is at maximum temperature at this point.
Between Me And You
It’s time for an awesome blues ballad, as well as more chops galore on display. This is everything to expect from any suspecting contemporary blues outfit. This is hot as can be, but then every second of the disc is packed with that commodity.
Mi Jefe Me Molesta

More laughter comes on strong here with a Spanish theme, perfect for the live set as well, as all of these tunes have that translation quality. I can only imagine what their loyal followers think of the songs, as they know best what they're all about. This album only gets better as it goes. And, Suburban Slim blows a trumpet on this one.

Fourteen Dollars In The Bank (limited edition bonus track)
This bonus track with harp once again provided by Salgado, is a cover of a tune by Paul DeLay. He was a lovely man who passed away but fondly remains in the hearts of everyone who knew him, and I happened to spend my share of time in front of him, so I know first had how special he was. Here they pay respects to a northwest blues harp legend and historically significant musical figure in Portland, Oregon. I was tickled with surprise when I read the track list and saw this on it. And for them to do it such justice is a favor to anyone who hears it, and a great homage to him.
 
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