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CD REVIEW: Jam-Lab - Gain
By Chip Withrow - 11/28/2008 - 01:59 PM EST

Artist: Band: Jam-Lab
Album: Gain
Genre: Jazz/Funk/Rock
Sounds Like: Allman Brothers, Flecktones, Hendrix
Technical Grade: 9/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 10/10
Songwriting Skills: 9/10
Performance Skill: 9/10
Best Songs: On the Other Hand, Gain, Back in Black, Dustbowl Politics, The Ocho
CD Review: Hearty helpings of funk, reggae, jazz, and metal and tasty sides of folk and world are on the menu this day after Thanksgiving, served – usually within the same song – by the Michigan instrumental trio Jam-Lab on its new album Gain.

“Sideira” is the syncopated, reggae-fied opener, followed by the Allmans-like jazz-rock powerhouse “On the Other Hand.” This disc is nicely mixed, and the title cut is a fine example – James Carr’s searing guitar work is out front, but John Austin’s interesting six-string bass lines and Mike Curtis’ crisp drumming figure prominently.

Carr’s fretwork dances flamenco-style on the aptly titled “Half and Half,” which is half rock-steady groove and half atmospheric-yet-percolating jazz. “The Ocho” offers another dose of exotica, this time mixed in with Hendrix-style bluesy funk.

The experimental jazz-funk cover of AC/DC’s “Back in Black” is well worth checking out – Carr’s faithful rendering of Angus Young’s leads are a reminder of what a good player Young is. Carr mines some more metal riffs, and Curtis kicks up some thunder, on “Hail to the King,” which ends with power-pop majesty. 

“Dustbowl Politics” and the set-closing "And the Results are In" are melodic, often-pretty changes of pace. On "Dustbowl," Carr’s guitar layers demand a closer listen (there’s a nifty acoustic interlude), while Austin’s and Curtis’ rhythm bubbles and simmers. The album’s other cover, Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” has a jangling, spacey jam-band vibe, and Austin’s swooping bass is a treat.

At first, I found myself wondering what these guys would sound like with extra players like an organist and/or saxophonist. I think it’s an idea worth exploring, but Jam-Lab’s Gain stands up excellently on its own merits.

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