Crunchy and volatile in “If Ifs Were 5ths,” melodic but gutturally textured in “I Wonder Who” and straight-up explosive in “Got Love If You Want It,” one of the most important elements for us to behold in The Wildcat O’Halloran Band’s Deck of Cards is its searing guitar parts, the best of which are scattered across each of the album’s ten unique songs. The Wildcat O’Halloran Band are getting back to the basics of blues-rock in their latest effort, and while they’re hardly a household name outside of their tight-knit circle of fanatics, what they’re issuing in this LP definitely qualifies as being one of the most accessible blues records you’re going to get your hands on before the conclusion of the month.
The music in Deck of Cards is heavily scooped in the style of a metal album, with tracks like “They Told Me,” the title cut and “Crunch Time” hitting us with a wallop of bass-heavy adrenaline that even the most agile of audiences couldn’t escape, and I love how well the equalization here accentuates the many grooves the LP has to offer. There’s no denying the swing-factor in most all of this material – “Tell Papa” and “Blues Energy” standing out as two of the finest examples – and even in slow numbers like “Cost of Living,” there’s never an instance where it feels like The Wildcat O’Halloran Band are giving us anything less than 110% in their passionate performance.
There are a lot of different influences in play on this record that go beyond the realm of American blues – shades of country swagger find their way into the stitching of “If Ifs Were 5ths” and the southern rocking “But,” while even more experimental constructs find quarter in the cover of “I Wonder Who,” the ballad “Cost of Living” and “They Told Me.” As diverse as all of the content on this disc is, it’s essentially tied together by the chemistry that The Wildcat O’Halloran Band can seemingly turn on like a microwave. Whether it’s seamlessly connecting a harmony with a groove pattern or simply unleashing a cathartic release amidst a tense sonic backdrop when we need it the most, they’re working in complete synchronicity in Deck of Cards, and setting quite the example for their less than well-organized peers to follow in the future.
I was only vaguely familiar with the extended works of The Wildcat O’Halloran Band prior to checking out their latest LP, but after getting hooked on the smoking leads and unstoppably sexy beats Deck of Cards features in spades, I’m planning on following their output a lot more closely from here on out. They’ve got a natural panache that comes to us wholly unaltered by the master mix in this record, and while this is far from the only independent album that I would tell underground disciples to get excited about this March, I think it easily ranks among the best in the blues genre without question. These guys have my attention, and once you hear Deck of Cards, I think they’ll have yours as well.