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Welcome to Wonderland
Artist: Big Fat Jam
When you name your band “Big Fat Jam,” at least two things are expected of you: a sound that A. is out of the ordinary and B. makes up for/lives up to your name. Fortunately for Big Fat Jam, Welcome to Wonderland has a big sound, an enthusiastic delivery and more jams than aisle nine of your local supermarket.
Musically, the four-piece, southern rock band (ironically from Minnesota) reminds of everything from the Black Crowes and Guns and Roses to the classic rock of Led Zeppelin and Lynryd Skynryd. What results is a carefree, deep-fried southern rock flavor that counterbalances anything lacking artistically on the album with a fun performance.
The album opens with “Everything,” a respective nod to the rock era of the late 80s and early 90s. Praising God for His sovereignty and omniscience, lead singer Lance Dalbey sings, “You were there when I denied You. I never knew You could love such a fool…Now I’m giving you everything.” A background of wailing guitars continually scream their way into the forefront of the up-tempo song, fighting with Dalbey’s vocals for the spotlight, though both get ample exposure. Lyrically, BFJ sets a standard for the entire album on the opener, taking a straightforward approach that leans far from any hidden meanings.
“Searchin’” is a down-home, Dixie foot-stomper that rumbles from start to finish like a runaway freight train. Featuring sizzling harmonica and guitar work, the tune is a salvation experience testimony of the most enthusiastic sort. The song jumps back and forth through multiple tempo changes and Dalbey’s soulful vocal acrobatics, demonstrating a tight, cohesive effort on the part of all the band members.
“Close to the Ground” and “Red, White and Blue” are ballad-like songs interspersed throughout the rock mayhem and show a band that knows how to slow things down a bit. The former tells the story of “another fallen down angel” struggling from the grip of an abusive relationship and realizing her true identity in Christ, while the latter recognizes the post 9/11 world’s need for salvation through Christ. Dalbey provides insightful thoughts on the song when he sings, “People said that they couldn’t believe, but their eyes showed reality. The full effect you’ll never conceive of the common man’s mortality.”
Dalbey’s earthy voice fits a frontman role perfectly, falling somewhere along the lines of Darius Rucker of Hootie and the Blowfish or Mac Powell of Third Day, but maintains its own unique style. The bluesy guitarwork of Pete Hosmer is also a continual highlight of "Welcome to Wonderland."
What impresses about BFJ the most is that they don’t seem to be trying to cater to a particular audience or pattern themselves after a more popular artist; they simply sound like a group of guys that love to sing about Jesus, while rocking southern-style. That’s not to say that BFJ is for everyone: even the most avid of southern rock lovers might want something a little more poetic, lyrically, once in awhile. But the originality and confidence exuded on the album must be respected and might even become contagious if you’re not careful.
Matthew Williams 11/2/2002
for southern rockers
for everyone else
Big Fat Jam successfully ignore every current trend in music they are not nu-metal, they avoid the whole rap/rock thing, they don’t do prefab r&b tunes, and they certainly are not a boy band. So why would anyone buy Welcome to Wonderland?
Because it flat out ROCKS. Big Fat Jam combines the best of southern rock mixed with Faith No More-style funk rock to produce the best debut album I’ve heard for a while. I’m not normally a big backer of Dez Dickerson’s production, but he hits this one out of the park.
“Everything” is the single, and features a bass line that reminds me of Red Hot Chili Peppers or Sly & the Family Stone. “What Can I Do?” is a throwback that could be disguised as a 70’s classic rock song, sounding like a Black Crowes/Three Dog Night combination. “Hold Your Head Up” is much in the same vein, as is “Searchin’,” which can be compared to Will Hoge.
The influence of Faith No More is obvious in other areas the album photos of vocalist Lance Dalbey shows him dressed much like FNM singer Mike Patton. The vocals and bass lines in songs such as “Brand New Day” make this evident as well.
“All in the Family”, though, takes it one step further. This anti-racism song is finkier than the rest, combining a Jimi Hendrix guitar style by Pete Hosmer with a Living Colour type rhythm section. “Thank You” has a Stevie Wonder sound to it, but could also be a Fishbone cover.
“Red White and Blue” is the band’s response to 9/11, and “It Was You” serves as the power ballad.
Big Fat Jam is a band much like Podunk both embrace southern rock, while employing an updated, crunchier tone than their 70’s roots. If you want an album with Christian themes that doesn’t sound like the run of the mill radio friendly CCM, Welcome to Wonderland is for you. It proves that rock 'n' roll isn’t dead it still comes out of hiding every once in awhile.
Brian A. Smith 2 November 2002