13 Songs, 44 Minutes


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Blue News ,

Strange Light - Album Review

As is common knowledge for those in the music world, blues is a tough mistress. It’s just that much of a transcendent genre, requiring equal parts skill and soul to unlock. Even dedicated fans must be disciplined enough to enjoy blues’ intricacies, which in turn often limits its masters to a narrow, discriminating audience. Despite all these hurdles, many artists remain undaunted in their pursuit, which is why we must tip our hat to bands like The Blue News. Fully steeped in the kind of nitty-gritty, sweaty aura that modern blues demands, the Midwesterner trio has laid all talents bare in Strange Light, their third album. There is much to love here. Strange Light is evidence of Blue News’ journey.

The News have sincerity in spades, demonstrating their student-like loyalty to mechanics in every single one of Light’s pores. Furthermore, lead singer James Orndorff and company turn to unlikely sources for inspiration, often channeling the early sounds of Chris Cornell’s Soundgarden to give their funk a razored edge. There is no soft sentimentality at play in Light’s atmospheric dance; this is electric, dirty stuff doled out with a knowing smile. The band has displayed a respectable amount of craft.

“Rising” opens Light with a shuffling country gait, its near-growling guitars a deliciously unpolished match for the doom-saying lyrics. Simple and unadorned, it’s an appropriate introduction to tracks such as “Running Back to You,” where the fat sound compliments Orndorff’s unhinged wailing. This is Blue News at their best, translating the most skeletal of compositions into an emotional torrent fitting of the blues name. That charm is featured throughout the album with tracks like “Break of Day” and burners like “Old River” and “Shelter” which vary little from the purring guitar formula.

There is real life in the bluegrass-tinged, hand-clapping ditties like “Feel Alive,” where Orndorff and his colleagues can get back to the simple pleasures without aping their other offerings. And they certainly can’t go wrong with tracks like the hopping “Stumblin’,” whose bristling guitars move better than any warm organ.

The lingering question is one of discipline and range – whether the trio can hone their craft even more and yet still appeal to a wider audience, regardless of blues’ inherent limits. As listeners take in gems like “Leave My Sorrows,” perhaps they believe their faith will be rewarded; we can only hope The Blue News doesn’t disappoint. As it stands from Strange Light, Blue News seems to have what it takes to scale the unforgiving terrain of their genre.

-Kenneth Hannaleck (Muzik Reviews)

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