Chicago bluesman subverts the expected cliches and makes a great record.
With an album titled Old School Rockin', you might expect Chicago's Studebaker John to be well versed in the kind of tired rockabilly and boogie-woogie tropes that White Men Of A Certain Age seem especially responsive to. Happily, though, this record is refreshingly free of cliché. Sure, there are plenty of familiar-sounding song titles ("Rockin'" crops up three times, "Boogie" once) but the tunes themselves are more inventive than one might expect.
"Disease Called Love" is a sinewy, midtempo guitar workout, while "Fire Down Below" wastes not a second of its six-minute running time. Nothing feels rushed here; even the uptempo songs—which are many—often check in at more than five minutes, leaving John and his band (Bob Halaj on bass, Albert "Joey" DiMarco on drums and Doug Organ on, uh, organ) plenty of time to show their impressive chops. "Deal With the Devil" is especially fine, with its slide guitar and midtempo shuffe, and "Mesmerized" is another good one, as Organ's burbling keyboard adds ambience. At 14 tracks, the album could have stood to pare down a weaker song or two, but there's no complaining about the energy on display throughout. Studebaker John is living proof that there's plenty of life yet in those well-worn blues rock grooves.