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Afro-American Fusion?

12 August 2008

How many young Americans learned to play blues harp while serving in Viet Nam in the 1960’s? Quite a few, probably. How many of them would be familiar with the Billy Boy Arnold classic ”I Wish You Would”? Most of them, I bet. And how many of them would ever think of doubling that signature riff of Billy Boy’s on a cane flute? That’s right, just one: Dan Treanor.

And he didn’t stop there, either – while Treanor’s skills on the Mississippi Saxophone are unquestionable, it’s his mastery of self-made African instruments that shapes the best of these songs and lends the album its magic.
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As for his ’blood brother’ Jack Hadley on vocals and electric guitar, well... Suffice to say that the man’s own myspace site describes him as ”a sonic rainbow of jazz, fusion, blues and rock” – if that sounds like a warning to you, too, you might be better off directing your interest towards some of Dan Treanor’s other releases.

Don’t get me wrong – ”Brothers, Blood & Bone” is a blues album, no doubt about that, and the first four numbers roll along nicely, including a thoroughly deconstructed version of
Sonny Boy Williamson’s ”Help Me”. Jack Hadley’s vocals seem skillful, his electric guitar playing nice and raw on the opening number ”Hard Luck Child”, and so on and so forth.

But then we get to the title track and – you know those formulaic skipping-in-the-sun MOR thingies that seemed compulsory for all 1990’s blues albums? A
John Lee Hooker or a Bo Diddley might have pulled it off, but the way Mr. Hadley delivers Treanor’s line ”we love our children, each and every one” makes even David Crosby’s ”almost cut my hair, it happened just the other day” ring like Shakespeare.

Neither Hadley’s vocals nor playing seem to improve after that – technically, they’re fine as ever, of course, but one gets the impression he’s running on schooling rather than faith, pleading for gold rather than salvation... Maybe it’s me, and I just don’t get ’fusion’ altogether. But I’d suspect that Treanor’s otherwordly arrangements and quirky instrumentation might well qualify as such, and those are brilliant throughout the record.


Dan Treanor & Jack Hadley: Brothers, Blood & Bone. Plan-It Records, 2007

Dan Treanor (harppu, khalam, ngoni, ruokohuilu, banjo, akustinen kitara), Jack Hadley (laulu, akustinen ja sähkökitara), Gary Flori (rummut, lyömäsoittimet), Jody Woodward (basso), Randy Mrugala (kitara), CC Cage (lehmänkello), Delores Scott, Sky Downing, Christine Webb, CC Cage, Clay Kirkland (kuoro)

Links: Dan Treanor
website and MySpace, Jack Hadley MySpace