Your crusty chronicler does his own thing. Still, when Examiner asked for support for their “List” format, it was impossible not to be open-minded. So, with that spirit of unity in mind, your rockin’ reviewer presents this series—“Track by Track” in which we review certain select CDs literally “track by track”.
In this edition we peruse The Planetary Blues Band’s debut disc Once Upon a Time in the South Loop. But first, for those not up on their indie artists, The Planetary Blues Band was born in 1999. A real “garage band” this group grew out of their mama’s basement. While they have amassed quite a varied repertoire their musical beginnings hearken back to the Chicago Blues biggies such as Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, magic Sam and Son Seals. Their current line-up consists of Martin Schaefer-Murray (guitar and vocals), Michael Schaefer-Murray (guitar and vocals), Bobby Schaefer-Murray (bass) and Nick Evans (drums).
(View the list to learn more about the music.)
“See That My Grave Is Kept Clean”
The album opens on “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean”. This is a cover of a Blind Lemon song. It shows how the band is able to present old classics with new arrangements. It also harkens back to the country roots of the blues. (Listeners will hear something original on the next track.)
“The Thorns Will Show You”
The second selection on this disc is “The Thorns Will Show You”. This one is by Martin Schaefer-Murray. It is also the listeners’ first introduction to Murray’s original material. It also is another early indication of how this trio of brothers-plus-one is able to work together well in the recording studio.
“This Precious Existence”
The next number is “This Precious Existence”. This, too, is a song by Schaefer-Murray. It continues to further demonstrate the writing capabilities of the main songwriter in the band as well as further exemplifies the group’s musical cohesion. A careful listener can pick out elements inspired by those who have come before, so to speak.
“That’s No Way to Get Along”
Another cover of an old blues classic comes in next. The song is titled “That’s No Way to Get Along” and was written by Reverend Robert Wilkins. The arrangement here is a new one of course but by now it is obvious that they don’t want folks to forget that rock owes a debt to the blues genre.
“Sacred and Profane Blues”
One of the more noteworthy cuts on this album is the song “Sacred and Profane Blues”. This is another original composition by Martin Schaefer-Murray. A critical listen or two here makes it obvious from whence they derive their inspiration indeed perhaps their very signature sound. But there’s more to come!
Although it’s not possible to explain exactly why, the track “Blues Resurrection” definitely caught your crusty chronicler’s attention. This is yet another original cut by Schaefer-Murray. It isn’t really clear to your rascally writer just what aspects of this one deserve additional mention suffice to say it simply works.
“Crazy Cryin’ Blues”
The band once more pays tribute to the country roots of the blues genre once more with their version of “Crazy Cryin’ Blues”. Originally by Memphis Minnie, this is another classic with a new arrangement. The male vocals here add a unique, new perspective to this old tune as well.
“In a Blue Study”
Next up is “In a Blue Study”. Here Martin Schaefer-Murray lets his songwriting reveal both his influences and the music that he truly enjoys. Quite often he and the entire band musically remind us that this music is actually responsible for a lot of the riffs prevalent in rock today.
“When I Say I Love You”
Things begin to wind down with “When I Say I Love You”. This one is the one and only song by Michael Schaefer-Murray. It’s a bit of an aural pallet cleanser to add some more variety to this mainly Martin Schaefer-Murray playlist. Make no mistake though; it fits in as well as most of the other songs.
The closing cut is “The Shillelagh”. This is the last Schaefer-Murray piece as well as an interesting end-note to a collection of cuts by a slightly edgy blues-based jam band. Their music is often a broad interpretation of old school blues.
It’s a bit more fluid than what most folks consider blues today. In fact, their original tunes offer a nice range of stylistic interpretations and seem inspired perhaps by the likes of Jack White and Chess records musicians in general. They seem to try to put listeners in mind of such artists as the Allman Brothers or even to some extent Bob Dylan and yet their adaptations seem to demonstrate that they cannot forget that today’s music was born of the blues. The Planetary Blues Band has a flexibility to their focus and prove they can play both “Sacred And Profane Blues”.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.