Give a record a title like The V16 Project and choose a close-up of a truck’s grill for your cover image and you create a certain set of expectations. Drummer Jerry Granelli happily meets those expectations on this burly recording. The twin-guitar quartet Granelli backs-a setting he has visited several times before-lays out a thick foundation of blues-rock and then proceeds to take all kinds of creative liberties with it. They also rev their distorted guitars like teenagers.
Most cuts mix sweet themes and more conventional slices of rock with disheveled harmolodic improvisation. This really turns out well on cuts like “Hobo Comedies,” where Granelli recycles rock and blues elements into something catchy and fresh. The tune sways unpredictably though not abruptly between pungent group improvisation and dense rock as an odd theme spelled out in a high-pitched, chimelike sound plays over and over above it like a lost Timbaland sample. This song, paired with the very next tune, the hangdog soul blues number “Family Man,” marks the recording’s high point. Unfortunately, a number of tunes here aren’t quite so much fun. The band deploys some pretty lame samples (church bells, monks chanting, turntable scratches) and turn out a few desultory jams. Nevertheless, fans of expansive rock will find much to enjoy here.
J. A. Granelli has more in common with his dad than blood. On Gigantic, the bassist and his band, Mr. Lucky, seem every bit as interested in the blues-rock improvisational space that informs his pop’s V16. They also keep slide guitarist Dave Tronzo in common-but where they part is in the exposition. Granelli the elder tends toward manic, percussive, spiky tunes with a dense foreground of tangled plectrics, while Granelli the younger offers laid-back, idiomatic fare. In other words, what Prime Time is to the former, the Allman Brothers are to the latter.
Hints of organ jazz turn up here, the type of brainy themes over organ and guitar groove recently perpetuated by Wayne Horvitz’s now-defunct Zony Mash. But Granelli’s band, which also includes organ player Jamie Saft and drummer Diego Voglino, really isn’t trying to be anything other than a bar band-albeit a talented one. Any hint of pretension dissolves with Vanessa Saft’s vocal feature, a throwaway Bee Gees’ cover. The dub sections are pretty dull, but the band sure can do improvisational blues-rock and honky-tonk, with the country-rock opener “Merle” being a fine example.