You can take Slow Poke at its word. The quartet—saxophonist Michael Blake, guitarist David Tronzo, bassist Tony Scherr and drummer Kenny Wollesen—plays an unhurried music. Their new release, At Home, was indeed recorded at home, specifically at Scherr’s house in Brooklyn. And the group sure took its time mixing and mastering the album, since it was recorded in 1998. Though the seven songs were not recorded in a studio, the sound is fantastic; it seems as though we are in Scherr’s living room with the musicians. And the music indeed sounds like a bunch of guys jamming at home. This is a plus and a minus. The same qualities that create the free-flowing, uninhibited nature can also make it seem lazy and less than fully formed. Phrases get repeated, solos lack imagination, and the rhythm section of Scherr and Wollesen (who are also the rhythm section of Sex Mob) plays almost robotically at times.
That’s not to say we don’t have a good time here. We do. This blend of country-blues and jazz-rock can be infectious. Tronzo spends most of his time on slide guitar, contributing both a loping roots feel and a dirty blues aesthetic. He and Blake weave patterns around each other on “Listen Hear,” mourn in unison on the dirge “Dry Socket,” and get all jovial on “Make Out Machine.” The highlight and centerpiece is an angular arrangement of Duke Ellington’s “Rockin’ in Rhythm.” Blake and Tronzo dig deep for some guttural guitar and sax sounds that evoke everything from swing to Deep South blues to rock and roll.