CD review by Roger-Z (7/7/04)
If you live for snarling, gut-wrenching, guitar, can't wait for the vocals to end so the solos can start, long for reunion tours by such '60s and '70s acts as Steppenwolf, Cream, Mountain, Savoy Brown, and Foghat, then you'll love "Delaware Crossing" by Wolfe.
Blues-rock survives! Wolfe, consisting of Todd Wolfe (guitar and vocals), Chuck Hearne (bass), David Hollingsworth (drums), and John Cree (percussion), may have the "Stranger Blues," but it won't be for long. You might have witnessed Todd Wolfe playing lead guitar with Sheryl Crow from 1993 to 1998. You may since have caught him with his own group.
This powerhouse rock band builds its fan base the old-fashioned way -- through constant touring. The group performs roughly 125 dates a year, mostly east of the Mississippi. I caught the act two summers ago at The Bayou Blues Festival in Westchester, N.Y. As can be expected from the name, Wolfe dominates this group. He sings with a penetrating, whiskey voice, but his true gift lies in his guitar work. Like old-school masters Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Leslie West, and Duane Allman, he plays deliberately, lyrically, dynamically, and very loud. He endorses Gibson Guitars and the liner notes show him holding a sunburst Les Paul and Firebird model.
The album alternates between tightly arranged studio tracks and looser jams. The band (playing mostly original material) literally leaps right out of the speakers with the piercing "Stranger Blues." The throbbing, wah-wah guitar coupled with the unusual drum beat serves to squeeze your heart with a giant fist. Outside writers contributed the other two prominent short rockers. "Crowded In My Soul" stands out as a Foghat-inspired, boogie-rock anthem. The remake of The Delaney and Bonnie classic "Things Get Better" rocks the waters as well.
The band, however, exposes its heart and soul in the three extended tracks -- "Black Hearted Woman," "Love Gone Bad," and "Wolfe Jam." In the grasp of these musicians, the songs become living, breathing organisms. Like accomplished lovers, these men know how to build tension, pull back, and then build again. "Black Hearted Woman" (not The Allman Brothers tune) features Todd wailing away on the minor blues scale. He loves to hang on the second scale interval. "Love Gone Bad" starts with a slow blues feel. Wicked, stinging, Les Paul riffs abound. Todd personifies the classic "talking blues guitar" style. Suddenly, the band opens up and starts to swing. Todd focuses once more on his minor-scale, modal skills. "Wolfe Jam" finds the band taking a slightly different direction. It has essentially remade The Allman Brothers's "Mountain Jam" with a slightly different melody. Now, the major, country scale comes under intense scrutiny. Three quarters of the way through, Todd picks up the slide and drives the tune home.
If you can't get enough of that '70s stadium rock, whet your appetite with "Delaware Crossing." But catch a live show for the main course.