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  • Writer's pictureLuke Wolk

Album Review: Mean Old Fireman and The Cruel Engineers

Artist: Mean Old Fireman and The Cruel Engineers

Album: Box 1

Released: 2019

Mean Old Fireman and The Cruel Engineers is fronted by guitarist/vocalist Ned Bolle. The influences on this recording seem to be quite varied, but with one thing in common...greasy, bluesy slide guitar playing. This record at times feels like The Grateful Dead meets The Allman Brothers. It is very jam band oriented and reminiscent of roots rock that was popular in the early 70's, exploring the musical soundscape without being afraid to stretch, but never leaving its swampy vibe. The eleven song set clocks in at just under 47 minutes and includes both originals and covers of classics such as Little Wing, Amazing Grace and Sleepwalk. The band moves seamlessly through blues, country and bluegrass in an impressive display of slide guitar playing and a deep understanding of American roots music. The majority of the album is instrumental with only two vocal tracks. Clearly the slide guitar is doing all the talking on this one! Miles Per Hour is a country rag that jumped right through my headphones on the first listen. A classic outlaw country romp that is drenched in classic Nashville authenticity and compressed country tone that would be right at home in any honky tonk gin mill on Music Row.

Bogged Down is a track that really captures the overall mood of the record. You can feel the humidity coming off this track! It’s as much blues as it is a jam band on this one. The band brings all the cool mud along with them on this eight minute ride through a slippery arrangement that moves from a slow sizzle seamlessly into a Bo Diddley groove. It's all held together by exceptional slide guitar playing. My favorite cut is Through The Notch. This is definitely the track that I hear the Allmans meet The Dead at the Derek and The Dominoes sessions. It flirts with Levon Helm and The Band in its patience and laid back groove. The relaxed jam is an easy listen that is engaging and inspiring in its maturity. This record is like gumbo in every way. A mix of all sorts of ingredients and influence. It is spicy without being overpowering, filling and warm. It is slinky and a little messy in all the best ways. If you like tasteful slide guitar presented in a simple and effective manner you will really enjoy this album!

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