Elliott Sharp, guitar-crusher extraordinaire, attacks like an angry pit bull in this wild swirl of stomping blues-rock and oblique Downtown horns. Diving directly into the groove, Sharp’s crack Terraplane band grinds and howls with punkish energy and abandon, as their leader’s blistering solo eruptions hack through drummer Tony Lewis’ thick, pounding rhythms. Lead vocalist Eric Mingus—son of Charles—turns in a performance somewhere between his father and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins on the squealing “Smoke and Mirrors,” the thumping “Dance for Lance” and the lowdown anti-war lament “Tell Me Why.”
But that’s only one aspect of a disc that’s not only relentless, but also relentlessly original. Poet/singer Tracie Morris brings an aching sobriety to “Katrina Blues,” her sultry voice groaning and soaring over the band’s gloomy New Orleans strut. And the disc’s second half takes on a different air entirely, alternating spiky improvisational jazz excursions with straight-ahead roadhouse blues, skewed back-porch picking or, as on the disorienting “Haditha,” hurling all of those strains together in a genre-defying melting pot. Sharp also shows a sweeter side on “How Much Longer Blues,” quietly strumming a thoughtful dirt-road slide alongside Mingus’ haunting, high-pitched vocal.
Terraplane’s excellent horn players spice up most of the tracks, but they come to the fore in “Juke,” a tipsy march that staggers along on Curtis Fowlkes’ strutting trombone, convulsive sax turns from Alex Harding on baritone and Sharp himself on tenor, and a tuba line from bassist David Hofstra, the band’s reliable anchor through a series of dizzying—and addictive—twists and turns.