The Austin Chronicle

ACL Music Festival Reviews

Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, September 23, 2005, Music

Blues Traveler

¡Bastardos! (Vanguard)

The first thing you'll notice about the latest Blues Traveler album, ÁBastardos!, is what's missing. The band, which recently entered its third decade, has long been identified by the lightning quick harmonica leads of frontman John Popper. Here, Popper's harp has retreated to the background somewhat, but that only allows the NYC quintet room to explore different guises. Aided by the more-than-capable production hands of Jay Bennett (ex-Wilco), ÁBastardos! is also the darkest Blues Traveler LP to date. It's filled with thick soundscapes and a heaviness straight out of Seventies progressive rock. Which isn't to say it's retro by any stretch; the band gets psychedelicized, but their feet are firmly planted in the here and now. The use of horns on a couple of tunes, most notably the smoldering "She and I," adds new colors to their palette. At 14 songs, ÁBastardos! is overlong; cutting a weaker track or two – the completely unnecessary "Nefertiti" would be a good place to start – would have made it more cohesive and less of a sprawl. Still, this is a collection of riffs, jams, and new directions that will thrill Blues Traveler fans, while maybe attracting new ÁBastardos! to the fold. (Friday, 7:30pm, Heineken stage)


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