As Ted Nugent once delicately put it, “Anybody wants to get mellow you can turn around and get the fuck outta here, alright?!”
The Nuge is pretty unfashionable nowadays, but there’s no denying that the man knew how to put the hammer down on a heavy blues rock riff. And so it is with Lance Lopez.
Lopez has been garnering attention lately as one of the cornerstones of Supersonic Blues Machine, but this recently released live album recorded at BB King’s in New York catches him on his day job, as it were, with his own trio. A southern boy brought up in Louisiana and Texas, it’s little wonder that he claims Stevie Ray Vaughan and Billy Gibbons as influences. What he serves up here though, is something altogether heavier.
|Lance Lopez does the "itchy nose in mid-solo" face|
Lopez has a rich growl of a voice, and a meaty, fuzzy, guttural guitar tone, and he puts them to good use on the trio of strapping self-penned tunes that opens this set – the chugging R&B of ‘Come Back Home’, ‘Hard Time’, and the entertaining tale of falling out with your woman that is ‘Get Out And Walk’. Think Pat Travers in ‘Snortin’ Whiskey’ mode, for example. Think bone-crunching riffs – the last of the triptych in particular coming on like a Force 10 gale delivered by the aforementioned Nugent, with a rhythm section of King Kong dimensions in the form of Chris Reddan on drums and Mike Nunno on bass.
Elsewhere they spread out and get more expansive, on the slow blues of ‘Lowdown Ways’ and the closer ‘El Paso Sugar’. When he puts his mind to it Lopez is an exponent of rip it up, speed freak soloing, and on both of these there are passages where he unleashes a blizzard of fretwork. If that’s your bag then get ready to strap on your air guitar and pose in the mirror. Personally though, I think a race with the devil is a better blues metaphor rather than an approach to blues guitar. So I find Lopez more interesting when he reins himself in and his guitar work makes one note count more than a hundred, as on the slower sections of ‘Lowdown Ways’ or the country blues-ish fingerpicking intro to ‘El Paso Sugar’.
Subtlety may be in relatively short supply, but there’s simply no arguing with the power. Whether it’s the taut, bludgeoning riff on ‘El Paso Sugar’, or the focused, grinding stomp of ‘Tell The Truth’, this is blues with the weight of Judas Priest covering ‘Green Manalishi’ – and then some. The lightning is well bottled by producer and long-time Johnny Winter collaborator Paul Nelson – and so someone who knows a thing or two about wildness.
There’s one cover here that just about it sums it up, and that is ‘Travelling Riverside Blues’. We’re not talking hitching a ride in some jalopy through the Mississippi backwoods here. We’re talking about hauling ass down the freeway in some monster rig. God alone knows what Robert Johnson would make of it – perhaps just shrug his shoulders, say “What the fuck,” and reach for his own air guitar.