[18 August 2014]
PopMatters Music Editor - Canada
The Ontario, Canada-based MacKenzie Blues Band is an impressive talent. It boasts a powerful singer in Tara MacKenzie, who has a three-and-a-half octave vocal range, and a stunning axe man in Trevor MacKenzie. On their sophomore release, Slam! Bam!, you’ll hear everything from classic blues numbers to barroom stompers, ranging in topicality from substance abuse to suicide to healing from eating disorders. The stunning final gospel-inflected track “Spiritual Power” is a tribute to a close friend’s struggle with cancer. All of this is fine and well, but Slam! Bam! is, while not exactly cutting-edge, a display of ragged showmanship and an embracement of various strands of music. On “Move On”, Tara sounds remotely like Canadian belter Alannah Myles. And then things get smoky and seductive with “Bone Cage”.
Slam! Bam! is studded with wonderful material, and one would be very hard pressed to find a fault with it. While not quite as pop-based as fellow Canadian blues smiths the Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer, you can see why the MacKenzie Blues Band won the Maple Blues Award for New Artist of the Year a few months back. The outfit possesses a smoldering passion, and also a conviction for the blues and rock. Plus, Tara is a personable blues mama. You can tell just from listening to this disc that the MacKenzie Blues Band probably slays live, and that assertion is backed up by the fact that the strongest songs on the LP tend to be longer in nature: the eight-minute “I Feel a Storm Coming”, the more than five minute “Bone Cage” and the aforementioned “Spiritual Power”. Slam! Bam! is an exceptional document that is reverential and a rocking good time. If you love the blues, and love getting grimy and dirty, this is the perfect encapsulation of the genre for you.