Sunday, June 1, 2008
Deeper Than The Blues
Review by Nightwatcher
Over the past 12 years of his solo career, Los Angeles based guitarist Steve Fister has forged a musical path consisting of a singular vision which ranks this incredibly talented player as one of the best in the business. From the largely instrumental albums, 1997's 'Shadow King' and 1999's 'Age Of Great Dreams', to his recent forays into hard edged blues rock, simply stated Fister just may be the finest guitarist you've probably never heard. Coming up in the L.A. scene in the late 80's, serving as Lita Ford's touring axeman of choice, then continuing through stints with Pat Travers and Steppenwolf, he's certainly paid his dues. Which pay off once again on his latest offering of blues infused rock, 'Deeper Than The Blues', the studio follow up to the critically acclaimed 2007 live document 'Live Bullets'. Recorded over a 16 month period in Los Angeles, Masbree, The Netherlands and Brazil, it's an album which showcases not only his prodigious abilities as a guitarist, but one that shows that he continues to grow as a songwriter, serving up memorable songs containing some of the hottest playing to be found in rock today.
Largely eschewing the guest appearances which have characterized his previous releases, this is Fister's baby, and he certainly shows that he can do it alone and achieve the same stellar results. However, having said that, there is a notable guest spot courtesy of blues guitarist Walter Trout, who supplies the outro solo on a funky blues workout of the Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want". Other than Trout though, with the exception of backing vocals contributed by current Legs Diamond singer Johnny Levesque, the players may not be big names, but they sure get the job done.
Starting off with the hard driving, groove that is "You Gotta Live", one is immediately impressed by the full sound of the production. Rich and full, spacious enough to allow the instruments room to breathe, it has a retro yet modern sheen. Hard rocking, with a bluesy influence, featuring strong vocals and a percolating rhythm, it's a fine beginning. Things turn a bit moody with "I Just Wanna Scream". Featuring gritty, incisive slide guitar recalling some of Joe Walsh's work in the same vein, it's a classy continuance. "Coulda Woulda Shoulda" showcases Fister's tasty rhythm guitar chops and deep blues tone. And when the time is right, he unleashes a fiery, impressive blues solo that uncovers his deep roots studying the playing of legends Albert, Freddie and B.B. King, but also contemporaries such as Eric Johnson and Joe Satriani.
"Found Out The Hard Way" is reminiscent of the solo work of the late, great Tommy Bolin - slow burning, building in intensity, it's yet another track highlighting Fister's increasing prowess as a vocalist.With each new album he seems to continue where he left off in this regard ,and it's becoming an instrument of its own right alongside his guitar work. The slow blues of the title track alternates from the almost jazzy passages of the verses to a rousing chorus. The volume swells are a nice touch, lending to the atmosphere, and special note must be given to the playing of bassist Berend Courbois and drummer Hans in't Zandt. The time spent touring by the three have brought out an instinctive interplay that only develops from plenty of time playing together. Other highlights include the funky instrumental, "Funky Shonuff", a grinding cover version of The Beatles' "Come Together", and the album's closer, "Last Of Me", yet another slide guitar workout. As the last down and dirty notes fade off, there's no doubt this is one classy blues rock contribution.
Make no mistake, this is a rock album, but one on which Fister has successfully interpreted the blues in his own vision, in the process blurring the lines between what is considered "rock" and what's considered "blues". But with results this good, why bother arguing over what it is or isn't, just go out, buy it and enjoy the fantastic sounds. 10/10