One of the little known musical gems of the Chicago area is the Planetary Blues Band. That is everyone checks out their latest album.
The Planetary Blues Band, hailing from the Midwest United States, is a blues-rock mix of energy and emotion. The band consists of three brothers, Martin (guitar and vocals), Michael (guitar and vocals), and Bobby (bass) Schaefer-Murray, and their longtime friend, Nick Evans (drums). The quartet formed in 1999 in Valparaiso, Indiana, and have played regional bars and festivals since.
In June of 2013, PBB released their fifth release entitled, Once Upon A Time In The South Loop. The album was self-released and, according to their bio, the album was self-recorded and self-produced. Although modern technology has made DIY recording and producing more affordable, it is still risky for a band to take on such a task.
The album opens with “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean.” The track is a new arrangement of a track by the legendary Blind Lemon Jefferson, also known as the Father of Texas Blues. The PBB version is an upbeat rock song and a worthy tribute to the original. The song has a great hook that makes it hard not to tap your foot to it.
“The Thorns Will Show You” is the second track on the album. This tune rocks out with some great guitar solo work full of feeling. While the main rhythm line could be more interesting, the vocals are good, and the guitar solo is well worth playing several times over.
“This Precious Existence” is a slow dance blues-rock ballad. The lyrics suggest we make the most of what we have. While it is a bit slow for my taste, the guitar work is excellent and the message upbeat. Also, another song worth listening to just for the guitar solo.
“That’s No Way To Get Along” is reminiscent of a gospel song. It has a rockabilly feel with a walking bass line and driving snare beat that builds throughout the song to make it infectious. This song is a cover of a well-known track by the Rev. Robert Wilkins.
This song is a standout track on the album. Imagine sitting in a lively church revival in a tent on a summer day clapping along with the band. The lyrics are not church material, though they do speak of a prodigal son returning home to his mother after a rough time with women.
The fifth track is “Sacred and Profane Blues,” a blues rock number in its truest form. Great guitar work and a solid rhythm line make this song another solid album hit. Listing to the lead guitar, you will hear a Stevie Ray Vaughn or Gary Moore style. The guitars jam on this track.
“Blues Resurrection” is another guitar driven jam. The song describes itself best; “I don’t know if the Blues is alive, I just know it won’t let me be.” The tune has dirty and sleazy written all over it with a rhythm line that struts along unashamedly as the guitar drips emotion all over. Think of a dark smokey club with the lights harsh upon the stage. The band, sweat rolling down their faces, oblivious to their audience, playing for all it’s worth.
“Crazy Cryin’ Blues” is a cover of a Memphis Minnie song. Memphis Minnie was a female artist, popular in the 1930s and 1940s, playing blues which was a genre dominated by men. The PBB version is reminiscent of the 60s jam band sound, with a solid beat and hook.
“In A Blue Study” is bound to be another fan favorite. The song has a folk blues feel to it. It is gentle and upbeat and appears to tell the story of a man who gets into trouble for going against the grain. The song will grow on you until you find yourself listening to it over and over.
“When I Say I Love You” is another classic blues jam. It is reminiscent of “Stormy Monday” by T-Bone Walker and has a slow, steady progression, accentuated by drums and guitars.
The Shillelagh closes the album and is a fun, upbeat 60s style instrumental jam. It is a great track to close on with some impressive guitar work, a solid beat, and a cool bass line.
For a self-produced album, the sound quality is good. The guitars sound bright, and the drums crisp. The bass could have been clearer. It is buried back in the mix and would have sounded stronger had it been brought forward. Being a traditional deep bass tone made it hard to pick out at times.
If you are into the blues-rock, jam band sound, you will like this album. Even if you are not a blues fan, several of the tracks on this album, such as “In A Blue Study” or “The Shillelagh” are fun and upbeat, and worth giving it a listen. As for the Planetary Blues Band, they do well in carrying on the blues heritage in this modern-day.
2002: Blues For Our Grandfather
2004: Planetary Blues
2009: The Myth Of Progress
Planetary Blues Band is:
Martin Schaefer-Murray: Guitar and Vocals
Michael Schaefer-Murray: Guitar and Vocals
Bobby Schaefer-Murray: Bass
Nick Evans: Drums and Percussion
Republished from National Rock Review: http://www.nationalrockreview.com/2014/03/17/album-review-upon-time-south-loop-planetary-blues-band/