Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Album Review: Karl Denson's Tiny Universe- New Ammo

Karl Denson's Tiny Universe
New Ammo
***and1/2 out of *****
Jambands bane of existence is a studio recording; the genre lives for the live show. Fans, promoters and artists alike all get rich in different ways off of those peaking communal moments late at night and when it is time to hit the studio that recording is mostly just fodder for better versions on the next tour.  New Ammo is more then that, sure it is new ammunition for Karl Denson's Tiny Universe to crisscross the country with, shooting the sounds into its fans ear holes but the band expanded its scope and sound. Having not recorded since 2009 KDTU has crafted an engaging mix of original funky workouts and unexpected covers that fans will want to hear as production and playing are top notch.

Denson and an expanded horn lineup are most successful when slapping their funky craft onto a wide array of covers. The groups unexpected outings into indie rock with the Cold War Kids "Hang Me Out To Dry" turns the Californian's storytelling original on it's ear, but it is the unique use of flute and Robert Walters key work that amplifies The White Stripes "Seven Nation Army" into a must hear. Jack White would have to admire the direction and it would be a treat to hear him contribute a jamming guitar to that track live but as is Denson and crew are having a blast, you can even hear Denson yelling into his flute towards the end of things. A tribute to the Beastie Boys via "Sure Shot" finds Denson's flute fronting a jazzy instrumental take on one of the legends best tunes, tastefully done.

Two covers the band kick major ass on are songs people probably never experienced before. "The Duel" is head banging, fist pumping and hip-shakingly fantastic all at once.  The original by Lenny Stack was for a soundtrack to 70's B-Movie CC and Company (starring Joe Namath!) sounds gloriously filthy here while (speaking of filthy) the slinky opener "Grenadiers" is the theme to Russ Meyer's Cherry, Harry& Raquel, va-va-voom indeed. Both are fantastic instrumentals that are the true highlights of Denson and crew; performers who can find the rarest of tune and make it their own.

Of course in Shane Handler's interview with Denson he stated "the band has finally figured out how to capture in the studio what the Tiny Universe does live" and he is certainly on the right path a bit more tightening could only improve things. For instance "My Baby" was Denson's first duet (with Nicki Bluhm) and it is a solid vocal take but trimming it from its 6:12 run time would yield better results.  "Odeyssus" brings things back to Denson's easy grooving roots but after all the new directions previous it feels just an average way to end things.

Really though it matters little for the groove hounds this disk is targeted for, when they can't make a live gig here's their New Ammo for staying in, turning it on and getting down
We like Denson, seen him a bunch back in the day and loved his Stones tour with Anders, this surprised us a bit, not what we were expecting, in a good way. We hold Jack White, The Beasties and even that first Cold War Kids album in very high regard. While those covers were cool (especially the Stripes) it is the 70's b-movie tracks that are the real stars.

Support the Artist here, but the disk here, make sure to catch him live here, and peep some video below:

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