Black Music Matters Festival

Statesboro Revue

Jukehouse Revival – 2015 (Vision)

Reviewed by Dustin Blumhagen

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CDs by Statesboro Revue

The old adage suggests that you should never judge a book by its cover. But one look at the cover art for Statesboro Revue's latest release, and you know that the music contained inside is going to be cool. From the Spaghetti Western stylized font to the 1970s throwback cowboy hat, "Jukehouse Revival" looks like a fun album.

From the early seconds of the album, it is clear that the cover is an accurate representation of the music within. Lead track "Bedroom Floor" has a funky groove that is full of '70s country swagger. It is a fun track about drinking too much. As the tempo keeps moving into "Every Town," one begins to pin down the focus of Statesboro Revue's sound. Touchstones would be The Band and Sturgill Simpson, although vocalist Stewart Mann's exceptional vocals are much stronger than these artists.

While Blackberry Smoke get all of the media love, Statesboro Revue exhibit more musical prowess and a stronger natural sense of cool. Perhaps the most accurate comparison for new listeners would be Willie Nelson's "Shotgun Willie," although modern production and new sounds expand on this style. There is a strong Southern Rock vein threaded throughout, which is where it varies from Nelson's classic.

Rather than slow things down with ballads, the band keeps things moving at a fast pace, altering style rather than speed. The sole exception on "Go Down Slow" focuses on the phenomenal vocals of Mann, whose sweet voice is backed by piano and steel guitar. The music weaves between rock and country music deftly, bringing to mind Ian Tyson's "Great Speckled Bird" project, albeit with much warmer production.

Touches of the blues, soul and classic rock are mixed into their sound throughout, adding depth. Closing track "Last Ramble" draws from gospel music, while "Honkytonkin" is swamp rock at its finest. Much like Drive-By Truckers, Statesboro Revue are rooted in Southern Rock, but not content to be limited by the constraints of the genre.

This is one of the strongest releases from the fringes of the country scene this year. It is an album that is both fun and has artistic merit, an all too rare combination.