For the last five years, Winston-Salem, North Carolina's Luxuriant Sedans have been cruising Piedmont highways with their brash brand of bombastic blues rock. This time out, they decided to whomp you upside the head with a more serious hard-core blues collection than on their previous efforts, Born Certified and Double Parked. But being how they are, the whompin' gets being done with stuff you don't just find lying around anywhere. You gotta go down the rabbit hole and scratch around pretty good to come up with some of these.
It takes brass balls to take on a tune indelibly stamped with the mark of its blues/rock creators. Joe Bonamassa and Paul Rodgers' (Free, Bad Company) version of “Walk In My Shadows” from 2014's The Royal Sessions is pretty hard to improve on. The Sedans don't do a frame-off restoration, staying instead with the original chassis, just knocking some new dents in the bodywork with percussive help from new Sedans drummer Larry Carman.
“Souls of the Departed,” from Springsteen's Lucky Town (1992), spreads some Carolina Treet on the Jersey shore, Mike "Wezo" Wesolowski sounding more like The Boss than Brooooce himself on this protest song that's as applicable today as it was over two decades ago: “On the road to Basra stood young Lieutenant Jimmy Bly / Detailed to go through the clothes of the soldiers who died / At night in dreams he sees their souls rise / Like dark geese into the Oklahoma skies,”
The Sedans put their transmission in glide for Paul Butterfield's “Stuck In the Countryside,” smoothing out the original's 1970-era organ/guitar/harp-dominated sinister, stutter-stepping lurch with the help of a horn section. The horns — Brad Wilcox on trumpet, and Tim Gordon on sax — are Charlotte natives who have toured with The Temptations and The Four Tops, and they came up with their arrangements in the car on the way to a gig, but sound like they've been playing them on the road for decades. It changes the dynamic of the song drastically, but still allows Wezo plenty of opportunity to do some serious reed bending, and he makes the most of it. Listen out for guitarist Gino Grandinetti's big dawg chompin' wah-wah tearing up the turf as well. “His funk playing on the Butterfield tune is just beyond belief,” bassist Ed Bumgardner says. “He out-Isaacs Isaac Hayes.”
Tommy Castro's “Blues Is all Around Me,” from his 2015 release Stompin' Ground, could be the Sedans' theme song: “The blues is all around me,crushing on my brain / when I get in my car to go to work, it goes with me for a ride / sittin' with me in the traffic / no place for me to hide.”
But in this band, everybody's contribution is valuable, from Bumgardner's thinking man's bass lines to Rob Slaters' Les Paul-fueled leads buoyed by Grandinetti's eclectic fills and funk, all anchored by Carman's impeccable, in-the-pocket percussion.
And now for the bad news. This is the band's final album. “We called it quits,” bassist Bumgardner says from his Winston-Salem home. “It was a bunch of factors, mainly the ability to play live for us had almost dried up.” But for five years, the Sedans' classy chassis supported a high-octane vehicle that burned up the road with blistering takes on previously owned originals from rock and blues giants.
“Getting an opportunity to go out on high note rather than drag it through the bowels of clubville, I think there's a lot to be said for that,” Bumgardner says.