Echoes of blues and R&B greats like Freddie King, Buddy Guy, Etta James, The Temptations, and The Allman Brothers ring through the accomplished new album from three-sibling Kansas City band Trampled Under Foot. Unexpected chord changes put some extra sophistication into some of the songs, but without uprooting the sound from its blues-rock foundation, with Danielle Schnebelen’s powerful pipes and her brother Nick Schnebelen’s world-class guitar playing leading the way.
Danielle sings her heart out convincingly on many of the tracks, starting with the fine opener “Bad Bad Feeling,” and overdoing it only on the record’s sole cover, an overblown take on James Brown’s classic “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” where she proves you just can’t out-Janis Janis.
But this band hasn’t any need to try too hard. The male lead vocals are excellent as well, even if the album credits don’t say which brother, guitarist Nick or drummer Kris, sings on the powerful “Don’t Want No Woman” or on the title track, which, speaking of the Pearl, takes its main melodic riff from the Janis Joplin hit “Move Over.” (YouTube research suggests it’s Nick singing, but you know what happens when you assume…)
Danielle, also the rock-solid bassist, slams down the vocal emotion on the blues-power ballad “You Never Really Loved Me,” and displays a lighter but equally convincing touch on the gospel-charged “Dark of the Night” and the smooth “Pain in My Mind,” which pays dividends with its tasteful keyboard contribution from eminent guest Mike Finnigan (Jimi Hendrix, Etta James, Taj Mahal).
A few songs on the second half of the CD lack the fire and inspiration of the album’s best tracks. But it’s a huge challenge, rarely met today, to put out a whole record in this style of music and write all the songs yourself, as (save one) they’ve done here. There are nods to country blues (“Down to the River”) and a variety of other flavors, but in essence this is a powerhouse rocking blues band well worth a listen.
‘Badlands’ is out July 9. It can be pre-ordered at Amazon.