Too Slim and the Taildraggers Shiver as reviewed in The Phantom TollboothVisceral blues with passion, outstanding playing and intelligent songs.

Label: Underworld Records
Time: 12 Tracks / 54 minutes

I once read a motto in a light-hearted book of wisdom for businessmen that said something like, “If you want to be the best, employ someone who is better than you.” It knocks the ankles out from under those who are so lacking in confidence that they only choose to work with people who won’t upstage them. Tim ‘Too Slim’ Langford proves the maxim, as he has the self-assurance to bring in some fine talent where it complements his, and – credit to him – this superb album is all the better for it.

Anyone who thinks of this band as just a guitar outfit needs to hear the excellent, gospelly, spirit-raiser “Everybody’s Got Something,” where Curtis Salgado’s soulful guest vocals are exceptional. It’s the bravery to take a blues band and expand its vision that separates the great from the good. In a similar vein, the oomph that the Texas Horns give “In Your Corner” and “She Sees Ghosts” piles joy upon joy.

This power trio is on its 16th album with this release and they don’t sound tired yet; far from it. Founder Tim ‘Too Slim’ Langford is clearly the heart of the band, his expressive slide guitar centre-stage, but Polly O’Keary (bass) and Tommy Cook (drums) add their part. Their bass and cowbell section in “Stoned Again” shows what is going on throughout under Langford’s blistering slide. I love it when a band takes the time to relish short, enjoyable unnecessary bits – a musical version of Matt Groening’s approach to scripting the Simpsons, if you like.

It is unusual to find as much thought going into the lyrics for blues songs as we get here. If the opener’s lyrics of “The Devil drinks his whiskey, Jesus drinks his wine” are a brief, observant dip into rights and wrongs, then he goes far deeper in the poignant “Daddies [sic] Bones.” This intelligent song tells the story of Winter’s Bone and catches its tone beautifully, both with a hurting vocal and a gorgeous Gibson sound, spiced with Hammond.

“Can’t Dress it Up” takes a poke at reality TV. It may be an easy target, but it makes a refreshing change from woman troubles:
“A new coat of paint ain’t enough to cover up all your rust
A spit polish just ain’t the same as a wax and a buff, can’t dress it up.”

“Workin’” stacks Langford’s blues on top of a massive funk plinth, but that doesn’t mean the lyrics can be cheap. The song makes a clear comment about the banking crisis:
“The politicians, got the work on hold.
They say they’re gonna tear it down, to build it back up,
But when they take it to the streets, it don’t work at all.”

Back to the sound, Slim and his Taildraggers lay out plenty of tastes on their plate. This disc has some rich blues-rock; touching ballads; body-swaying funk and hearty soul forays... and that’s not counting the title track’s dirty, riffy guitar and the really lovely, slow instrumental “Bucerius.”  

If you want to find filler here, you’ll have to get your magnifying glass out, because I can't find any.

4tocks (easily)
Derek Walker