When I was queried about whether I'd be interested in reviewing this CD, I did what I always do: bring it up on the speakers and listen to it edge to edge, at least twice and usually three times, before I write anything about it. One time through is usually sufficient to decide whether something about it - the players, the lyrics, the vocals, the strength and quality of the music itself - has grabbed my attention.
This one grabbed.
There are a couple of standouts. The title track, both yowling full-on electric to open the CD and old-school spooky acoustic to close it, is a kickass piece that takes no prisoners. "Groundhog Day" is relentless, the two main guitars working off each other. "Wait For You" manages to be as poignant as an old love letter and as exuberant as a teenage boy offering his best girl his heart.
I have to offer a special shout-out to bassist Paul Ill, who brings some serious thunder and some equally serious melody on every track. As John Entwistle once pointed out, there are bass players and there are bass guitarists. Ill is a bass guitarist. I'm always glad to find them out there.
Ain't Who I Was hits on all fronts. This is a solid, beautifully produced offering from what is clearly a group of excellent musicians; just as clear is their enjoyment at making music with each other. That's what grabbed me on the first listen: a sense of ease, a blending of instruments, easy as a rocking chair on someone's back porch.