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Dave Arcari -
was it that they said about those old James Bond movies? Something about
how when Sean Connery killed somebody in the film, that character was
dead, and how with Roger Moore, they had to opt for light comedy, because...?
But let's go back to the beginning: what we have here are the two new acoustic solo EPs by alt.blues singer-songwriter and slide guitarist Dave Arcari: "Vol. 1: Something old, something borrowed..." (release date Sept. 4th, 2006) and "Vol. 2: ...something new, something blue" (release date Nov. 6th, 2006). The first one consists exclusively of cover tunes and kicks off with Johnny Cash's "Blue Train" – indeed, up until recently, Dave was part of Union Avenue, a band dedicated to playing songs in the style of early Johnny Cash, most memorably doing a killer boom-chicka-boom version of Motorhead's "Ace Of Spades". But Dave's one-man resonator stomp on "Blue Train" is a lot closer to Motörhead than the 5-man Union Avenue ever was - hang on, wasn't there a quote on Dave's website once that called him "a voice that makes Lemmy sound like Kiri Te Kanawa"?!
And then, for something completely different: the classic "Stagolee", beautifully fingerpicked on a regular acoustic, sung in a laid-back, warm voice, slightly reminiscent of the quietest moments on my favourite Radiotones album, "Whiskey'd Up". Next up: great resonator tone on you-know-whose "Travelling Riverside Blues", followed by "Preachin' Blues" from that same songbook. And that's the one, baby – this isn't the first time Dave has recorded the tune, but it sure is the definitive version, capturing all the power, shock and glory of a Dave Arcari live show. Then out comes the regular acoustic again for another fingerpicked classic, "Trouble In Mind", and the first EP is done.
"Vol 2: ...something new, something blue" starts out slow and haunting with the chunky National rhythms of "Come With Me", incidentally the title track of Dave's upcoming full-length album. The few instrumental bars of "Sitting On Top Of the World"/"Come On In My Kitchen" halfway through the tune compliment the song nicely and offer an unvoiced comment on the subject matter - whichever recording you prefer to think of as the source for the quote, that is. "Texicalli Waltz" - yes, the man does actually waltz! But you'll have to wait until the outro to hear him really get into it... "One Side Blind" is another one I seem to recall from Dave's live shows; it's followed by "Red Letter Blues", another of the semi-metaphoric narrative songs Dave is so good at writing and getting across. The EP closes with an evocative solo version of "Bound To Ride" you may have come across on the electric Radiotones album by that same name.
So what's the verdict? Good stuff; I've heard it said that the blues
was born as a cross between African rhythms and Scottish ballads, and
these recordings certainly seem to back up that theory. There are not
that many people in the world of modern music you can call truly original,
and there are even fewer left in the blues - but Dave Arcari is certainly
one of them. "Wait a minute," I hear you say - "Isn't
the reviewer supposed to say at least something negative about every
release? Come on, tell us, what's wrong with it?!" OK, I'll tell
you: the only thing wrong with these EPs is the fact that not all of
these great tracks will be available on Dave's first full-length solo
album, out in February 2007, so if you buy one of these releases, you'll
end up buying two more. Guaranteed.