GA-20 are a relatively new band with only one previous album under their belt. On their debut album Lonely Soul in 2019, they were a duo. The beats on the album are primitive, and the guitar and harmonica are distorted enough to give the album a lowdown, dirty feel that draws an easy comparison to Left Lane Cruiser. Since GA-20 are so adept at creating a dirty blues sound, it’s no surprise that the band (now a trio) decided to record a tribute to Hound Dog Taylor that coincides with the 50th anniversary of the classic album Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers. The tribute album was recorded live with only a few microphones to give it a vintage blues sound that will likely appeal to most blues fans.
Of the new album, Bruce Iglauer (president of Alligator Records, which released Hound Dog Taylor’s classic 1971 album) said, “GA-20 absolutely glory in the rough-edged, unvarnished Chicago blues of Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers.” It doesn’t take long to figure out that Iglauer is correct.
“Let’s Get Funky” is a song that is hard to resist. Tim Carman keeps the song chugging along with a beat that makes it impossible to remain still. The rhythm guitar is wonderfully fuzzy, and the lead guitar is suitably loud. Meanwhile, the melody is punctuated with shouts of “Yeah!” that are as much a part of the song as any instrument. If you’re ready to boogie, then this is the song for you. The same can be said for the version of “Give Me Back My Wig”. In this one, the rhythm guitar is tuned pretty low to the point that it mimics a bass. Meanwhile, the lead guitar is everything you could want for this particular song, and the beat will have you tapping your feet even if you hear it in the car.
At the other end of the spectrum, at least as far as the tempo is “Sitting at Home Alone”. This is a slow-burning tune with a deliberate and catchy beat, and the slide is good enough to remind you of some of your favorite blues guitarists.
Some purist blues fans might complain that this album doesn’t sound quite like Hound Dog Taylor. And those people are right. It doesn’t sound precisely like Hound Dog Taylor, but then that’s the point. A band takes on a project like this to put their own stamp onto songs by an artist they enjoy. GA-20 maintained the spirit of Taylor while making these versions their own. While this is unquestionably a blues album, some punk rock is thrown into the mix – particularly in the beats and the energy the band put into these recordings.
GA-20 Does Hound Dog Taylor: Try It…You Might Like It! is a wonderful celebration of the music of Taylor with plenty of opportunities for the listener to boogie. For those not familiar with Taylor, this is an excellent way to get acquainted with his songs while getting to know GA-20 This album is being released in partnership with Colemine Records and Alligator Records, which has long been home to great blues artists.