Saturday, August 23, 2014

Micke Bjorklof & Blue Strip - After the Flood

2013 – Hokahey! Records
By Phillip Smith; Aug. 23, 2014

Whether tackling the blues Texas style, in a Mississippi swamp, or with a taste of funk, Finnish band, Micke Bjorklof & Blue Strip plays with excellence.  Singer/rhythm guitarist/harmonicist Bjorklof is backed by lead guitarist Lefty Leppänen, bassist Seppo Nuolikoski, drummer Teemu Vuorela, and organist/pianist Brian Coogan.  After the Flood is a splendid recording of twelve original songs which are immersed in blues and roots music.

“House For the Blues” energetically gets things started.  Bjorklof sings about tearing down a shaky old barn and building in its place, a house for playing music.  Leppänen tears it up with great guitar licks reminiscent of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s. Then, Bjorkloff tops it off with some howling harmonica.  The ‘wow-factor’ on this track is high.

I love the swampy tones created on “Jack the Black Hat” and “Ramblified”.  Killer slide guitar and superbly haunting backing vocals give the song about Mojo-man Jack the Black Hat an aura of coolness.  Then there’s “Ramblified”: a timeless and outstandingly written treasure.  This one screams traditional country blues.

There’s a funky side to the album too.  “Water From Your Shoe”, breaks out the funk midway through, following a borderline gospel beginning fitting for the church scene from the film, The Blues Brothers.  “Gumbo Mama” is a fun track as well.  Lefty lays down a funky groove while Bjorklof rolls out vocals a la Anthony Kiedis of The Red Hot Chili Peppers on the chorus. 

Industrial percussion and the dark boozy lyrics of “King Alcohol” bring to mind one my favorites, Tom Waits. This one is an unexpected treat.  “Woogie or Die”, takes a walk on the dark-side as well.  A cool revved up intro and ominous unsettling chords set the mood for this heart-racing song about being forced ‘Sopranos style’ to play music for a private after-hours party.  

Micke Bjorklof & Blue Strip is not your ordinary run-of-the-mill blues band.  The songs these guys have to offer are forged from top-notch and original writing, and performed with an excellence in musicianship.  Do yourself a favor and give it a listen.    

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