Juke Joint Duo
2 Man Wrecking Crew
8 p.m. Wednesday, April 8
The Social, 407-246-1419
The blues is good right now — real good. Thanks to a young class of fiery, bold revisionists, the great American music form has gone from history book to renaissance, but even the new upstarts would bow before a royal bloodline.
The grandson of blues deity R.L. Burnside, specializing in the distinctive North Mississippi hill country blues style, Cedric Burnside is Juke Joint Duo's principal timekeeper. As a longtime drummer for his grandfather rocking Delta honky-tonks since age 13, Burnside boasts what you might call heavy credentials. Completing the pair is ace guitarist Steve "Lightnin'?" Malcolm.
While their new-school contemporaries juice the blues with punk blood, the torch-bearing Juke Joint Duo carries a profound respect for the tradition. Their humid, greasy new album, 2 Man Wrecking Crew, doesn't even proceed until it pays homage to Cedric's legendary grandfather (opening track "R.L. Burnside"), known to him as "Big Daddy."
Still, they wouldn't be worth their salt as young men if they didn't attack the family business with a new vigor. The record is steeped in the blues' heavy, looping hypnosis, but played with the kind of prime-time rock energy meant for a roadhouse. Though their chops are clear, they maintain thrills with the raw, essential power and style unique to two-pieces. Those dual pillars — brawny electrified guitars and assertive rhythms — are virility in a bottle.
The chorus of "My Sweetheart" is slathered with Southern soul, and the sweetly lithe "Stay Here in Your Arms" nails the expansive melodic emotionality that the Black Keys have lately been mining. But the crown here is "So Much Love," which is economical and direct in its power with vocals that boom with soul.
2 Man Wrecking Crew is a cogent channeling of the mighty blues tradition. If anything, it shows that it's possible to be both reverent and vibrant at the same time.