Josh Smith takes the soul stylings that marked his earlier work and puts it on the back burner here. In its place is a return to his first love – high-octane, supercharged blues-rock. The nuanced R&B influence of Bobby Blue Bland has been replaced with a testosterone stew consisting of Hendrix, Frank Marino, and SRV.
It’s a decisive effort meant to appeal to the meat-and-potatoes blues audience, and Smith delivers. “How Long,” with it’s wafting Band of Gypsys-style Uni-Vibe and tortured licks, sets the pace for mid-tempo tunes with clever harmonic twists. The title track has Smith trading napalm solos with Joe Bonamassa. Smith’s rhythm section consists of bassist Calvin Turner and drummer Lemar Carter; they both groove relentlessly throughout.
The album isn’t all fireworks and explosions. Smith displays finesse on “When I Get Home,” the Mike Finnigan-meets-Hendrix vibe of “Still Searching,” and the Robben Ford-esque “Pusher.” Kirk Fletcher joins him on “And What” with dueling wahs and friendly competition.
Smith can truly rock. But his sense is strengthened by tasteful ideas, substantive playing, and a deep understanding of blues guitar.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s May ’16 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.