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Elliot Sharp and Terraplane: Blues for Next

This two-disc set finds guitarist/composer/iconoclast Elliott Sharp steering his blues group Terraplane (drummer Sim Cain, saxophonist Sam Furnace and bassist David Hofstra) through two equally raw, evocative sets that frequently take a familiar element, like a basic blues groove, and stretch it to the limit with craziness in the form of jarring dissonances, frantic free playing and electronic effects.

The first disc, labeled “Plus,” is buoyed by the talents of vocalists Dean Bowman and Eric Mingus, as well as those of blues guitar legend Hubert Sumlin, all of whom collaborate with Sharp on the material. The prevailing vibe is Howling Wolf circa mid-’50s, although sax fills the harmonica void and myriad detours are made along the way. Raw and rollicking, “Rollin’ & Tumblin'” and “S-Boogie” groove relentlessly and display plenty of effectively primitive guitar work. In contrast, “Long Dark Sky” features Mingus, whose intense performance recalls Jim Morrison’s moody, somewhat threatening demeanor, while Sharp’s articulate but edgy phrases add to the general ambiance.

Disc two (“Quartet”) solely features Terraplane’s core personnel and material penned by Sharp. Like the first set, the results intriguing with an humorous element, typified by “Like Showers of Rain,” a complex of bluesy themes and quirky contrasts facilitated by eccentric slide guitar excursions. Other highlights include the funky “Work or Leave,” the ominously plodding but chaotic “Diallo Blues” and the hard rocking “Clank,” whose title speaks for itself.

Eager to destroy boundaries, Sharp infuses the blues-one of the most predictable genres in its conventional form-with a healthy dose of uncertainty, producing a fascinating and even appealing new facade. Crazy, cool and creative.

Originally Published