Review of "Blues and Trouble" by Grand Marquis

Attention-grabbing contemporary blues acts -- bands that really encourage listeners to pull classic albums out of rotation -- can be hard to find. Fair or not, it usually takes something special to pique my interest; exceptional tunesmithing and musicianship, a unique instrumental lineup, or a sound that draws from diverse traditions. Blues and Trouble, the new album from Kansas City-based Grand Marquis, manages to score on all three counts. By contrast to the six-string foundation of most modern blues acts, the sound of Grand Marquis is rooted in its brass players -- Bryan Redmond on saxophone (and lead vocals) and Chad Boyston on trumpet. Bass player Ben Ruth even takes up the sousaphone in a throwback to the pre-electric days of Dixieland swing (perfect counterpoint to the washboard rhythm of drummer Lisa Mackenzie). The group's sound does justice to the rich blues and jazz history of Kansas City, a musical crossroads often unfairly eclipsed by glitzier northern metropolises.

The title track conjures images of a smokey basement speakeasy, with horn solos traded over a loping bass line. "The Jungle" swings like a mofo; Redmond's lounge-inspired vocals lend a prohibition-era gangster vibe throughout. Guitar players should take note of Ryan Wurtz, who transcends blues cliches with Charlie Christian-esque lead tones and superb comping. His slide playing provides a menacing atmosphere behind "Easy to Be the Devil," a slow-burner that suggests the eclectic stylings of T-Bone Burnett or Tom Waits. The only criticism of Blues and Trouble worth noting is a sometimes muddy recording mix (particularly on the low end), but that's just a good excuse to return to the studio and record a follow-up -- something I'll be looking forward to from Grand Marquis.

This review was originally posted on New.Old.Stock. - A guitar music blog.

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Tags: blues, grand marquis, review

Comment by Rick J Bowen on July 1, 2013 at 1:40pm

Nice review of a fine album...cheers! 

Comment by Douglas Strobel on July 4, 2013 at 10:58am

I agree with the assessment that what a blues band brings to the table shows in a number of thing is obvious: ROOTS & knowing them....I have met good players who don't know Willie McTell wrote Statesboro Blues...or if they reference Buddy Guy & can't go back any further....knowing Micheal Bloomfield is important for me....there is such a wealth of material available for folks to educate themselves with that failure to do that renders many efforts to "a bunch of notes" it shows pretty early on... the paying your dues in modern blues is doubly tough in that you've got a hundred years of recorded music preceding you...poor cover choices are also an indicator...I probably wouldn't refernce Dixieland & swing in same sentence...Dixieland can swing but in a 2 beat manner rarely in the even 4/4 of Swing...that said if your stuff is interesting it might be enough...pax doug


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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.