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CD REVIEW: Wolfe Gang -  Read the Fine Print

By: Cyrus Rhodes

 

 

 

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Artist: The Wolfe Gang
Album: Read the Fine Print
Label: Independent Artist
Website: http://www.reverbnation.com/thewolfegang

Genre: R&B, Classic Saloon Jazz
Sounds Like:
Boz Scaggs, Eric Clapton, Dr. John
Technical Grade: 7/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 8/10
Commercial Value: 8/10
Overall Talent Level: 9/10
Songwriting Skills: 8/10
Performance Skill: 9/10
Best Songs: Get on Home to You, Read the Fine Print, Overcoat Blues
Weakness: Dated Sounding Production, Winded Songs   

CD REVIEW:

 

North Carolina based singer/songwriters Michael Wolfe releases his latest CD Read the Fine Print in 2010 with his band The Wolfe Gang. His music has been described as a colorful history of Organic Blues & roots-rich music. Influences are but not limited to Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Miles Davis & bass legend Charles Mingus

 

The CD kicks gets off the ground quickly with the title track “Read the Fine Print” a smooth flowing intro piece that serves up slamming blues rock groove against well placed vocal harmonies, inviting horn section, hot guitar licks, & well placed vocal harmonies from Wolfe & company. Track 2 “Everyone” keeps thing moving in the smooth direction with a passionate vocal delivery from Wolfe with steady flowing rhythm, smooth melodic jazz saxophone accents making for an impressive ballad. Track 3 “First to Go” is another impressive groove that dishes out full tilt rock rhythm, impressive drum fills & thought provoking lyrical content from Wolfe. The CD makes a great first impression dashing out 3 solid songs in a row. The musicianship of everyone involved is clearly above the bar. I would classify this music as classic R&B, American, with brief touches of & even Saloon Jazz. Along the way you will notice lush instrumentation with things like impressive horn sections, saxophones, Hammond Organ chops, impressive solo guitar, piano, fiddles, harmonica, & lush harmonies layered everywhere. As this CD slowly unfolds it’s obvious the players in Wolfe’s band are quite accomplished. The rhythm section pushes the natural accents well. What I like the most about this band is how well they seem to groove together, testament to hundreds of hours of rehearsal time no doubt. Now turning our attention over to Wolfe - as for his vocal abilities, he holds his own within the confines of this catalogue. His voice goes down smooth & fills the space peacefully & unobtrusively. I suspect some of his vocal influences are – Boz Scaggs, Eric Clapton, Dr. John, & Jimmy Buffett just to name a few. By track 3 the CD hits sold stride delivering 5 solid tracks back to back including my personal favorites “Get on Home to you”. All songs are extremely well crafted & consistent across the board. This CD from Wolfe delivers 14 solid tracks all providing musical enjoyment filled with strong musical variety & diversity. This catalogue personifies the life experience with high highs & low lows. Wolfe pretty much touches em’ all with messages of thought provoking wisdom. The music of Michael Wolfe has everything you would expect from a professional R&B production. From upbeat “Bon Temps Roulet” to easy flowing “Another Sunday Morning” & “Everybody’s Got One” to smooth as silk “I’m not Talking” to powerful “Mack the Knife” this CD has something for just about everyone. There’s even a Celtic instrumental ”Irish Dream Song”  The CD ends with “Three Little Birds” a perfect finale statement for a CD of this caliber.  

 

It’s had to find any serious weaknesses with this CD. But if could say anything to Wolfe right now it would be take a few more vocal risks on some of your more passionate songs, & really push that emotional envelope hard. This would really seal the deal especially at the end of your finale moments. In classic Jam Band fashion - all songs over 4 minutes tend to drag you to the finish line. Perhaps trim up the catalogue a bit. It’s fair to say Wolfe doesn’t have a world class vocal ability – but he pulls it off well & it’s obvious he’s comfortable in his own skin. It’s fair to say the mix though effective is somewhat dry, slightly dated, lacks dynamic & depth when compared to other modern world class production within this genera. I don’t like how track 1 fades out.

 

From start to finish “Read the Fine Print” is an impressive collection of music from Michael Wolfe & company. The songwriting – world class, all consistent musical experiences, each one possessing a unique personality, flair, & signature groove. Note for note, song for song there isn’t really weak piece on this entire catalogue. The writing & playing abilities of Michael Wolfe & his band are rock solid. The melodies & harmonies are well crafted, & the lyrical content is packed to the hilt with good old fashioned no holds barred R&B swagger. Last but not least the vocal presence of Wolfe is simply infectious. Like a drug - you can’t help but get sucked in by his mystique & his music.

 

Cyrus Rhodes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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