Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Scott Henderson - 2002 "Well To The Bone"

Well To The Bone is a 2002 album by fusion / jazz guitarist Scott Henderson. It's his third solo-album, again returning to his blues-roots. It features a re-recording of the Tribal Tech-song "Rituals".

Well to the Bone is Scott Henderson's third outing as a leader apart from his group, Tribal Tech, the band he co-founded with electric bassist Gary Willis in the mid-'80s. As one of the finest fusion guitarists of his generation, Scott Henderson returns to his blues roots with a program of ten songs that feature multi-layered tracks of guitar and a few that pay tribute to the blues-rock of the '60s and the '70s. Henderson's six-string virtuosity is accompanied by Kirk Covington on drums and John Humphrey on bass. Special guest vocalist Wade Durham pours on the bluesy gusto sauce on "Lady P," adds a few of Jimi Hendrix's phrasing techniques on "Devil Boy," and creates a new funky blues direction on "Dat's da Way It Go." Vocalist Thelma Houston puts her diva stamp on "Lola Fay," a sludgy blues shuffle, and on the title track. These songs mark her return engagement with Henderson, who featured her on his 1997 Tore Down House. Overall Scott Henderson's playing is awesome on all tracks and his experimentation with tones from several guitars, amps, and mic-ing only adds more musical adventures for his listeners to enjoy. He especially flaunts his blues/rock virtuosity on the title track and on the power ballad "That Hurts." This song rocks you right to your tone center. Well to the Bone is Henderson's best blues/rock outing since his 1994 release, titled Dog Party

Scott Henderson is nothing if not unpredictable. In Tribal Tech and Vital Tech Tones he has distinguished himself as an endlessly creative performer with impeccable musicianship. Well to the Bone also bears a heavy dose of creativity, to be sure, yet many of the selections come off as oddly disconcerting. Despite its label, the disc has been filed away here at AAJ under Fusion instead of Blues because even adamant blues non-purists might shake their heads in confusion.

“Lady P” typifies the experimental side of Henderson’s mutant blues, its constant rhythmic shifts making it nearly impossible to pin down the meter from one bar to the next. Wade Durham’s vocals recall Corey Glover of Living Colour as much as anyone else, and the vocal reverb on “Devil Boy” seems a misguided attempt to pass him off as Jimi Hendrix. Durham sounds like he takes himself too seriously. Thelma Houston fares much better on the straightforward title blues and “Lola Fay.”
Not everything is hot and heavy. “Ashes” is pretty in an off-kilter way, and “Rituals” ends the album on a pleasant note. Of course, there is a good deal of humor involved as well, never more so than on the fun-paced “Hillbilly in the Band,” where the sound of a barking dog keeps interrupting Henderson’s solo. Kicked off by a chant sample, “Sultan’s Boogie” is just about what you’d expect, a hard groove laid over a Middle Eastern mode.

The big problem here might be the sameness of tempo and Henderson’s guitar timbre, which makes much of the disc sound like it’s all cut from the same cloth. It’s the same sort of problem that John Scofield used to have before he expanded his horizons. Odd for Henderson to seem stuck in a rut since he doesn’t evince that problem within his other bands, but it certainly holds him back here. Not a bad album by any means, but not as rich in variety as we’ve grown to expect from him.

Scott Henderson is one of those guitar players that makes you want to skip practice because, what's the point? You'll never be that damn good on the guitar. His latest CD "Well to the Bone," is the evolutionary follow up to 1997's "Tore Down House." While "Tore Down House" was a marriage of Blues and Fusion, "Well to the Bone" is Fusion-Blues. Imagine Stevie Ray Vaughn jamming with Weather Report.

Blues purists look elsewhere. This recording is flying at an altitude of 30,000 feet right over their heads. It's Incendiary! Earthy blues concepts. Rubbery whammy bar phrasing. Playing inside, outside, over a cerebral hot bed of progressions that take you on a journey. Twisted, soulful, sometimes dreamy songs full of humor, longing, and even incest. Maximum strength liquid Strat tones caress as well as scream throughout.

One song in particular "Ashes," a somber ballad that erupts into a psychotropic gospel dirge at a wake, blends Hendrix/Mayfield style rhythms with the kind of soloing that could only come from a supreme being.

The divine and utterly soulful Thelma Houston returns along with new comer Wade Durham to more than deliver the vocal goods. Kirk Covington on drums, John Humphrey on bass, and Scott Kinsey on percussion, swing with soul and precision without ever sounding metronomic. For those with an open mind who like a lot of adventure and unpredictability in their blues, this CD is a must own. 

Track listing

    "Lady P" – 7:14
    "Hillbilly in the Band" – 5:06
    "Devil Boy" – 6:41
    "Lola Fay" – 6:24
    "Well to the Bone" – 4:50
    "Ashes" – 6:53
    "Sultan's Boogie" – 6:30
    "Dat's Da Way It Go" – 6:54
    "That Hurts" – 6:16
    "Rituals" – 8:01

Personnel

    Scott Henderson - Guitars
    Kirk Covington - Drums and vocals
    John Humphrey - Bass
    Thelma Houston - Vocals on "Lola Fay", "Well To The Bone", "Dat's Da Way It Go"
    Wade Durham - Vocals on "Lady P", "Devil Boy", "Dat's Da Way It Go"
    Scott Kinsey - Electronic Percussion

2 comments:

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