A few weeks back, we told you about the second single from Pittsburgh-based blues-rock sextet the Ghost Hounds‘ upcoming blues album You Broke Me (Maple House Records): an electrifying cover of the Howling Wolf classic “Smokestack Lightning“. So, while we knew the first two tracks off the album were definitely killer, with the chugging opening “Baby We’re Through” having been released earlier this year, we had to wonder if it was possible for the rest of the album to be anywhere as solid, and are pleased to report that is indeed the case: from the early-Stones-like slow blues of the title track that follows those two singles to the swinging take on Ry Cooder’s “Willie Brown Blues” (from the Crossroads movie soundtrack) and all the way through to the album’s closing number, the second of two (both excellent) versions of the original “Through Being Blue Over You”, this one a swaying acoustic take that nicely highlights singer Tre’ Nation’s soulful vocals, and, the former, a slightly more robust electric version.
Filling out the album are a strong, John Lee Hooker-ish acoustic rendition of Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Lonesome Graveyard” that adds some prominent piano, a creeping “Still You” and an early rock n’ roll sounding “On Your Trail”. The tracks routinely allow each of the instruments to stretch out, providing ample opportunity to hear some bouncy keys, stinging guitar, and driving drums throughout the album, with fellow western PA musician Charlie Barath also contributing harmonica on a handful of songs.
Thomas Tull, one of the band’s two guitarists (along with Johnny Baab), co-wrote and co-produced the album with Kevin Bowe. Some might recognize Tull’s name or face from his roles as a film executive/producer or part-owner of the Steelers, but he’s also a founding member of the Ghost Hounds, the earlier California iteration of which included vocalist Ty Taylor and guitarist Nalle Colt, the two of whom would go on to help form the band Vintage Trouble. Not surprisingly, you’ll hear some strong similarities between these two bands, including, of course, the dynamic, soulful lead vocals. But there’s plenty of room on the world stage nowadays for multiple talented blues-rock bands, and it’s nice to see the Ghost Hounds continuing to expand their presence on that stage, having opened for acts like the Rolling Stones and Bob Seger in recent years, but also through the strength of their latest albums.
We admit that we tend to be more than a little biased towards the blues side of things, so, while we’ve certainly enjoyed a lot of what we’ve heard throughout the Hounds’ earlier material, it sounds to us that You Broke Me captures the band at its very best. If this is how broken sounds, we sure as heck can’t see any reason to fix it…