Some people make music because it’s fun. Others do it because they’re good at it. Papa Juke manages to do both.
The Colorado-based foursome of harmonica player and vocalist Mad Dog Friedman, bassist and vocalist Christine Webb, guitarist and vocalist Dave “Doc” Dougherty and percussionist Dan Crecco released its sophomore album “Out of the Blues” in November.
“Juke” is what the band calls its music: a contemporary stew of soulful blues, swing, rock, boogie, country, Latin, reggae, Cajun and old-school rhythm and blues, as well as hints of jazz, funk and gospel. They say they’re a little bit of everything; put simply, they’re a blues band that picks and chooses the best traits to fit the sound they’re attempting to achieve in a particular song.
There’s a blues component to every number on “Out of the Blues,” but they all take on an individual form. “Mojo Queen,” like its voodoo lady main character, is straight out of the swamps, “Weak and Weary Blues” is pure garage rock, “Sizzle” is from the lounge, and “Grocery Store” is rockabilly goodness.
Then, there’s also the songs that stick mostly to the blues format, like the sleepy and sensuous “Blused and Confused” and the innuendo-laden “Delivery Man.” Whether they choose the blues or diverge a bit, Papa Juke handles it well, and they don’t seem to have a problem doing right by their choice.
The years, even decades, of experience of Papa Juke’s players is clear on “Out of the Blues,” as is their ability to turn out a well-balanced song. Friedman rules the harp, and Dougherty is a master of the blues guitar, while Webb and Crecco back them with masterful rhythms. Each member appears to know exactly where they fit in the song, whether on their instrument or with their voice.
One of the best things about “Out of the Blues” is that no one song is the same; it’s due not only to the variance in music, but it’s also from having three different voices at the lead mic. The Cajun growl of Mad Dog, Doc’s vintage vocals and Webb’s sexpot charm trade off and often come together for amusing effects. For instance, Webb puts the steam in “Sizzle” and receives background assistance from the contrasting voice of Friedman, then Friedman and Dougherty bicker about whether she’s cool or hot.
The one drawback to “Out of the Blues” is the repetitive music and insubstantial lyrics on a couple of tracks. While Friedman does a very appealing Billy Gibbons-style delivery on “Never Lost Love” and showcases his harmonica skills, the remainder of the song is lackluster. The song is not bad, but it might drive you crazy if it ever got stuck on repeat.
Papa Juke is by no means “Out of the Blues.” They’re no purists, but who is? It’s rare that something, especially a music genre, stays the same over a long period of time. By changing up the blues, the cool cats of Papa Juke are keeping it current, relevant and entertaining.
For more information on Papa Juke, visit http://www.papajuke.com.