With advances in recording technology, some albums have come to sound flat, feel cold, or are just a bit boring. A few musicians have pushed back against this trend, deliberately eschewing current production methods in search of a warm retro sound—only to come off sounding contrived or cliché. With his brother Lane Kelly producing, and a band of superb musicians, Eddie 9V finds the elusive sweet spot between modern studio excess and campy throwback attempts on his second LP, Little Black Flies.
This exercise in restraint allows the band the freedom to capture and record “in the moment,” resulting in an album that closely approximates a live performance. The band plays through a couple of mistakes and has a couple of laughs along the way, providing listeners an intimate musical experience. As to the music itself, the full-bodied, soft-edged lows of the rhythm section contrast against the piercing—and sometimes even noisy—midrange, to create a canvas that pairs nicely with Eddie 9V’s blues, funk, and soul-infused music. In many ways, it is the modern incarnation of the “Stax Sound.” The writing matches this vibe in that both Eddie 9V’s lyrics and singing contain a rawness that attests to the album’s sincerity.
On the first two tracks of the set, a mature storyteller evokes a couple of rather vivid lyrical portrayals of the rougher side of life. With its simple, but emotive melody and verse, “Little Black Flies” tells of a longing to help someone in need. “3AM Chicago” laments the dreary modern world that defines much of urban life through its lurking groove and haunting background vocals. They are two of the collection’s best and most original tunes.
Eddie 9V reaches into the past for the middle third of the album, keeping it closer to the blues and recognizing some of the legends. “Dog Me Around” and “She Got Some Money” are great homages to Howlin’ Wolf and Elmore James respectively. “Back On My Feet” slowly burns in the tradition of bluesmen like John Lee Hooker and Furry Lewis.
“Reach Into Your Heart” approaches the pinnacle of modern soul with a tinge of funk. The echoing guitars and shimmering organs provide a colorful backdrop to Eddie 9V’s aggressive singing and emotive vocalizations, and Cody Matlock’s guitar interludes are a couple of his best on the album. At the opposite end of the energy spectrum lies “Columbus Zoo Blues,” a humorous reflection on the inherent injustice of life in the zoo. With musings like, “Cheetahs running around in cages, man, my bathroom is bigger than that,” Eddie 9V leads a slow blues jam with his almost-spoken-word delivery that works—as strange as the subject matter is. “Travelin’ Man” blends too many genres to name, and with its infectious groove, vies for the best of the collection.
Little Black Flies impresses from cover to cover. There are no weak songs. As with any album, some tracks will appeal more to some listeners as opposed to others, but for anyone who likes blues, soul, or funk, the mix of genres should be very appealing. The triple threat of Eddie 9V, his band, and his brother Lane Kelly create some lush, raw, and colorful music that is leaps and bounds ahead of Left My Soul In Memphis. And that album was also high quality. This is the type of album that can put an artist on the map.
The Review: 9/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Little Black Flies
– Back On My Feet
– Reach Into Your Heart
– Columbus Zoo Blues
– Travelin’ Man
The Big Hit
– Travelin’ Man