We gave it a B
Take the blues, hack off its roots, ditch its more difficult emotions, and you’ve got a dim but likable style born in the ’70s called boogie rock.
That’s the zippy genre Blues Traveler have lovingly reheated for the ’90s. By echoing acts like J. Geils, Foghat, and ZZ Top, BT have fashioned the breeziest jam music of now.
They do so with fresh liveliness on their first studio album since their 1994 sextuple-platinum breakthrough LP, four. Following up the release of a rambling double live disc, the new album finds the band once again unpretentious and plucky.
On Straight On Till Morning they’ve souped up a perfect road album, stressing riffs and beats that tear along at a brisk clip. But they’ve also grounded their jams in appealingly long melodies. The band’s strongest draw remains John Popper’s ravenous harmonica work. In his hands, an often slurred and whining instrument finds the clarity of a fine-tuned lead guitar.
Blues Traveler’s lyrics play to the bright side as well. Popper favors the cute and self-deprecating remark — a style well suited to his blithe delivery. If the band’s overall perkiness can border on the oppressive, at least BT avoids the nerdy excess of, say, Phish, or the sanctimonious fusion of Dave Matthews Band. Like the modest period pieces they recall, Blues Traveler’s boogies offer a happy little buzz. B