An Exponentially Different Take on Acoustic Blues That Really, Really Works.
Fred Hostetler was a brand new name to me when his last album Fred’s Blue Chair Blues arrived at RMHQ in October 2020; but his pretty unique take on Acoustic Blues really captured my heart and imagination.
So when his latest release arrived last week (as a download three weeks after release and with no Press Release tsk tsk) I was obviously intrigued and put it straight on the stereo.
A little bit of research (his website) tells me that this is a collection of previously released singles that have been either re-mixed or gussied up with additional parts added.
So; as is my won’t and with no originals to compare and contrast with; I’m treating this as a brand new release.
The album opens with the wonderful Taming The Wolf 2; that simply shimmy’s along like a wolf hunting its prey; with Fred’s wheezy vocals and National Steel giving his introspective tale of unrequited love sounding almost Gothic, sleazy and dangerous in equal measure.
At the moment we’ve just discovered the TV drama Goliath with Billy Bob Thornton starring; and this song could easily be on that type of soundtrack.
With nothing to check with; but I don’t think Shelter From the Storm is the Dylan Classic; but to my untutored ears; is every bit as piercing and razor-sharp as t’other song with the same title; and I can easily imagine someone like Danny Boyle crawling over broken glass to make an accompanying video.
Now; the following song I do recognise; Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine and as I’ve said many times before; if you’re going to cover a Classic song make it exponentially different …… and while using the same words and 75% of the original melody; Hostetler’s arrangement will send a shiver down the back of anyone deeply in love and their partner leaves them …… forever or even a few days; Hostetler’s intense vocals sums up your feelings better than you will ever imagine yourself.
If I jump forward a couple of tracks; Fred’s intricate Slide Guitar playing on Rain on My Window Pain reminds me so much of the first time I ever heard Stefan Grossman as a teenager; and the way he delivers his words with so much pathos you wonder why he’s not crying as he sings. If this really was a single; I’d love to listen to the radio station that had the guts to play it!
The all too short album closes with a funky uptempo Blues holler; I’m a New Man which even in this relatively raw state sounds almost commercial and sounds like it was recorded in one exciting and breathless take.
Which brings me to my challenge of finding an actual individual Favourite Track; and that’s not easy, but I’ve somehow managed to narrow it down to two.
The first is the only new song here; Lady Luck (Fortuna Redux) and is as different as this acoustic formula allows from everything else here. Claustrophobic in texture and passionate in nature it somehow has a French tinge to it; and apart from erring on using Jacque Brel as an analogy; even I don’t really know what I mean …. but check it out and you’ll hear where I’m coming from.
The other He’s Gone Rogue instantly appealed; mostly because a colleague actually said that about me a month or so ago during ‘wage negotiations’ with management! Another claustrophobic type of arrangement with a chant chorus; the best way to describe this to the uninitiated is that it’s a bit like Tom Waits circa Rain Dogs; but easier on the ear; and because of that …… it’s my Favourite Song here.
After spending 17 years exile in India; it looks like Fred Hostetler has come back to Musicland with clear eyes, a full heart and a desire to do things his way and damn the consequences.
Fred Hostetler Rocks!