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Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, February 18, 2005, Music

The Malford Milligan Band

Rides Again ...

Every thing about the Malford Milligan Band's debut is unremarkable: the title, artwork, song selection – compositions by Freddy King, Muddy Waters, Merle Haggard, and Buck Owens. Everything except Malford Milligan's voice, that is. When the veteran Austin bluesman rips into King's opening "Palace of the King" with full-throated command, the throne is his. Of course, the world needs more blues covers like it needs more synchronized teen singing, but there's simply no keeping Milligan down. When he struts through Jerry Lynn Williams' coolly defiant "No Beginner at the Blues," the singer's possession of the song sounds effortless. This ain't no babe in the woods. Local guitarists, bassists, drummers, horn players, and keyboardists galore ride this well-trodden territory, and yet the arrangements are never cluttered, so Milligan rarely over-emotes ("Blow Wind Blow"). No one will ever confuse his version of Otis Reddings' "These Arms of Mine" with the real thing, but Milligan puts his stamp on it readily enough, and that's no easy feat. At the point proceedings start getting rote, Milligan cooks up a couple of strong originals, which, particularly in the case of "Ain't Nobody," should've welcomed more such efforts. Blues has always been the rock and a hard place: Originals better be up to the Willie Dixons of the world, or why bother? A humble, sincere interpretation of the Cars' "Drive" in the closing slot is perfect middle ground. Rides Again is unremarkable enough, but then Malford Milligan can certainly "Drive."


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