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Thursday April 17, 2014
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George Bedard

 

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Bedard sings lead as well, but usually his guitar does most of the heavy lifting. His vocals often serve as just another instrument, a virtual faux horn section anchoring the ensemble, with the lyrics functioning like subtitles to a conversation being conducted in another language--a language in which his guitar not only is the most fluent speaker but sometimes does all the talking. Bedard has the sense not to challenge Muddy Waters' vocal in his rendition of "Rollin' and Tumblin'," but his guitar's regal ferocity would get even Muddy's attention, and his handling of Little Richard's "Slippin' and Slidin'" quickly gets the lyric out of the way altogether to make way for a series of instrumental passages excavating the tune's blues roots that culminates with a guitar solo as alarmingly volatile as Little Richard's inimitable vocal.

On several cuts Bedard steps out from the shadows to duet with his guitar, a musical strategy that's particularly suitable to the two-faced essence of the blues, which is both an expression of distress and a cure for it. Usually the guitar and vocal are given different parts: the opening cut, a version of Elmore James' "Stranger Blues," features a vocal that is all anxious distress set against a tomcatting guitar, while on Otis Rush's "All Your Love" the roles are reversed. Then, on "Cold Cold Feeling," a song made famous by T-Bone Walker, voice and guitar seem constantly to switch roles as they converse with each other, until the guitar part itself expands into what feels like a conversation between conflicting moods and emotions. The result is the most persuasive realization I have ever heard of the transformation, posited by the lyric, of a chilled into a chilling spirit.

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