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|Joensuu Hill Country
16 May 2008
On his latest EP "The Hypnotic Songs Of The Forgotten Dead", L.R. Phoenix has opted for the electric guitar and is backed by Mika Vauhkonen’s powerhouse drumming.
When Pasi Tuominen reviewed ”Black Cat Bone”, an acoustic EP by the English-born Joensuu resident L.R. Phoenix, we all believed that to be the record Mr. Phoenix intended to launch at the Floating Cockroach Festival a few days later - to the point that backstage, I told L.R. I’d already heard his new EP when he handed me a CD with the familiar Robert Johnson skeleton on the cover. ”No,” he said, ”you haven’t heard THIS!”
|So I looked closer, and while the design was an exact replica, the title was indeed different – ”The Hypnotic Songs Of The Forgotten Dead”. OK, all right, I guess we’ve all heard of bands that put out selftitled albums I, II, III, IV – so why not keep the design and change the title instead? Cool.
Well, the change continues through the music; it’s still Mississippi Hill Country blues, but this time L.R. has opted for the electric guitar and is backed by Mika Vauhkonen’s powerhouse drumming (note: by the time of writing, Mika has changed his name to Mr. M. Mo’ Hell, which I’m told was his mother’s maiden name – not being Finnish, I wouldn’t know).
Most importantly, while ”Black Cat Bone” was a really good record, there is a remarkable growth in focus and confidence to be detected on the new disc – and I don’t think it’s all due to the various refreshments the band can be seen consuming in the inner sleeve photo. Phoenix & Vauhkonen have figured out where they stand, and have started building!
Mention should also be made of the overall sound of the EP, courtesy of engineer Timo Kuronen: there’s a superb 1970’s vibe to this live session, bringing to mind Buddy Guy’s classic ”Stone Crazy!” LP. The drums are nice and fat, and phasers and flangers are applied to L.R.’s guitar with great taste, helping to enliven the flow of L.R.’s self-penned Hill Country drones. One might argue about the somewhat frantic use of the panning knob on ”Whiskey Headed Man”, but considering the title of the record and comparing it against the first three Grateful Dead albums, it’s hardly worth mentioning.
What else? On ”My Faded Heart”, Mr. Phoenix pulls off a better Howlin’ Wolf impersonation than that New York Dolls’ fella you probably saw sharing the stage with Hubert Sumlin in the 2004 documentary ”Lightning In A Bottle”. And despite its title, ”The Hypnotic Songs Of The Forgotten Dead” must be one of the best contemporary ”straight” blues releases I’ve heard in a long while. So check it out, and try to catch a show – you won’t regret it.
L.R. Phoenix: The Hypnotic Songs Of The Forgotten Dead. Own, 2007
L.R. Phoenix (guitar, vocal), Mika Vauhkonen (drums)
Recorded and mixed by Timo Kuronen
Links: L.R. Phoenix MySpace, L.R. Phoenix @ Quack House Media