The B. Christopher Band returns with a large cast of musical talent on Two Rivers Back. With some players having worked together before under the moniker and a few newcomers joining in, there is no shortage of ideas, voices and sounds. Varying instruments, styles and musicians from song to song, the set features a varied mix of blues. While the common thread on all thirteen tracks is the guitar and musical direction of B. Christopher, arrangements generously share the spotlight, resulting in a cohesive and enjoyable group of tunes.
The album relies more on music than lyrics, so it is fitting that the instrumental “Newbie’s Funk” begins the set. Christoper’s clean, compressed guitar tone introduces the main theme with a bit of prodding from Bruce Katz’s organ pulses. Rounded out by the rhythm tandem of Eric Collier and Anton Fig, the quartet groove their way through the laid-back Texas blues jam.
“Tried To Keep You Satisfied” adds a couple more instruments on a thumping screamer. E.J. “Moose” Boles shares his side of a failed romance with an authentically deep growl and naturally overdriven voice. Boles splits top billing on “Sad State of Affairs,” trading phrases with Andy Snitzer’s saxophone fills and Christopher’s snappy solos. Both songs maintain great sonic spacing between the various instruments. The mix never sounds congested, allowing listeners to focus on specific musicians and riffs.
Another one of the collection’s six instrumentals, “Bit O ‘Butter” unleashes some exquisite guitar work and accompanying piano, winding their way through a traditional blues shape. Different, but also steeped in tradition, “She’s Gone ” is the shortest, and perhaps strongest track on Two Rivers Back. A solo effort, Christopher loosely paints a mournful tune with a raw and echoey delta blues slide. On an album filled with myriad guitar tones, this stands out as the most memorable. He turns up the fuzz to match a rollicking piano passage on “It’s Alright” and Snitzer lends his expertise with a solid horn arrangement on “I’m Drunk,” which is Boles’s last turn on lead vocals.
“Nina Come On” opens the back half of the album with an uptempo boogie, laced with a slightly grittier sound. The addition of Michael Powers as a lead singer and complementary guitarist on the second break accounts for some of this edge, as does the warbling drive of Jerry Portnoy’s blues harp. “Nina,” the aforementioned object of desire, is all but forgotten amidst all the instrumental exchanges.
Slow and patient, “Twenty Eight Days” laments lost love with a generous helping of acoustic guitars and stately piano. Like “She’s Gone,” the track stands apart from the other numbers by sounding softer in tone and more earthy. Portnoy’s high-register harmonica solo is an inspired highlight. Closing with feeling, “It Just Hurts” grinds and throbs around a sneering central riff and sharp guitar licks. It is the antithesis of “Twenty Eight Days” and exemplifies the range of style the band is willing and able to reach.
The album covers several blues structures and traditions, imparting The B. Christopher Band’s blend of style and shifting as often as the members themselves. The component musicians and distinct lineups’ imaginative playing impresses both technically and creatively. Although it doesn’t reinvent the genre, Two Rivers Back boasts some fantastic playing, few weak moments and will likely get repeated listenings from blues fans.
The Review: 7.5/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– She’s Gone
– Nina Come On
– Twenty Eight Days
– It Just Hurts
The Big Hit
– Twenty Eight Days
Review by Willie Witten