By Sarah Moore

I opened this fresh can of rock expecting a jazz trio. How else could a guitar and mandolin be submerged into an acoustic upright bass and drums-led group? I could not have been further from reality. With Flea-esque bass-lines and Tool-recalling guitar drives, the disc Joy of Suffering by the Eric McFadden Trio lives up to the “Exciting New” label on its album jacket.

“Put It Down,” the first track, made me want to jump in my car and push the accelerator to the floor. Eric McFadden’s smooth yet grisly baritone flooded the next song, “Bury our Sins.” I could only imagine that the penetrating bass in combination with the drums and melody would be a magnificent show to behold. The bassist, James Whiton, added sharp edges but kept mixing his methods and lines. “Long Way Up” exhibited how the three band members work together, providing a basis for each other yet still keeping their sound interesting for their audience. “Miranda,” an energetic track, only hinted at the intensity the live version must bring forth. I thought of a fiery lady, as the song was a conglomeration of Southwest flavor with Arabian spices.

The trio tried their hand at a Talking Heads cover in the next track, “Memories Can’t Wait.” With wailing and meditating treble strings, McFadden added an impetuous and even voice, bringing new life to the classic tune. Paulo Baldi administered a flowing drumbeat throughout, and in “Is the Morning Safe for Waking?” I saw that his precise touch complemented the delicate framework of their music-making. Apart from merely altering the pace and volume, he had a certain unique timbre. “The Ghost-Maker,” perhaps my favorite track, reminded me that, yes, this group can shred - intricate mandolin combined with a techno rolling beat. Ambience led us into the next track, “The Ghost of Saint Patrick,” a Pulp Fiction (think Dick Dale and His Del-Tones) fused with a Hank Williams Jr. tune that churned itself out without tripping over itself. While “Never Gonna Burn” changed the stride of the record, the track did not change the tone. A minor chord-driven melody drew me in; the passion of McFadden’s voice made me repeat.

Finally, “Limitations” spiked thoughts of Morphine’s bass-led blues and somehow merged with a Lenny Kravitz drawl, easing out the record with an even tone that lingered. Beginning the CD again was pretty much all I could feasibly do. Listening three or four times only increased my McFadden affinity. Throughout the album, McFadden and cohorts stretched their Southern rock roots into a borderline metal-blues mixture about which some musicians can only dream.

JamBase | Virginia
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[Published on: 1/1/06]

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