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CD REVIEW: The Insomniacs - At Least I'm Not With You
By Chip Withrow - 07/03/2009 - 02:35 PM EDT

Artist: Band: The Insomniacs
Album: At Least I'm Not With You
Genre: Blues/Roots Rock
Sounds Like: Rockin' blues with a touch of soul
Production/Musicianship Grade: 10/10
Overall Talent Level: 10/10
Songwriting Skills: 9/10
Performance Skill: 10/10
Best Songs: Broke and Lonely, Maybe Sometime Later, At Least I'm Not With You, She Can Talk
CD Review: This album just leaps out of the speakers from first note and doesn’t let go – At Least I'm Not With You by the Portland, Oregon-based Insomniacs is blast after blast of tasty, rockin’ blues cuts. These guys can play for sure – check out Vyasa Dodson’s guitar blasting over the muscular horns on “Directly From My Heart” and Alex Shakeri’s saloon-shaking piano licks on “Root Beer Float.”

The opening “Lonesome” is gobs of percolating organ, searing guitar, and wailing harp – traditional yet vibrant. And “Broke and Lonely” signals that these guys are not blues business as usual, conjuring an insistent groove with the added, unexpected touch of guest Joel Paterson's slippery pedal steel guitar.

“Maybe Sometime Later” is a snaky, funky number – Dodson has written sexy, funny lyrics for this one. The title cut swaggers in a New Orleans/Fats Domino way, with guest Jeff Turmes laying down a one-man sax section. “Hoodoo Man Blues” is smoky, jazzy and grinding – Mitch Kashmar contributes harmonica.

Dave Melyan’s drumming kicks the retro rocker “She Can Talk” into high gear, and Shakeri channels Jerry Lee Lewis. The duo of Melyan and bassist Dean Mueller is again a breakneck force on “Angry Surfer,” on which Dodson’s fretwork is at its feisty best.

“20/20” gives Shakeri a chance to show off his organ chops, which here are almost Greg Allman-esque. The instrumental “Insomniacs Boogie” wraps things up – it would make a fun show closer, with barrelhouse piano with handclap accompaniment and chunky rhythm guitar matching the horn section. The other instrumental, “Root Beer Float” could serve as the opener.

The Insomniacs’ inventiveness takes At Least I’m Not With You beyond the blues – it’s just darn good music and a real good time.

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