Every few years, some new, always young, aspiring, hot-shot, blues-influenced rock guitar hero enters the national scene and garners praise on the blogosphere and in print for connecting rock’s past with its present.
Currently, singer/guitarist Gary Clark Jr. appears to be next in line to hold the mantle of the new blues-rock guitar savior. But, judging from his painstakingly eclectic debut album, Clark doesn’t want the title. But that’s fine because Cleveland has a homegrown candidate with the memorable name of Thaddeus Anna Greene whose 2012 debut album, The Directory of Thieves, is a pretty darn good musical stump speech.
Greene first took up the guitar at 14 and his trio — drummer Anthony Foti and bassist Matthew Augusta — harkens back to the late ’60s very electric psych-tinged classic blues-rock of his acknowledged influences Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan as well as the Black Keys/White Stripes garage/blues rock fusion.
And though the 22-year-old Greene is likely growing weary of the Hendrix comparisons, The Directory of Thieves is a sonic gumbo of that guitar legend’s first three albums with a bit of the soul-flecked grooves of Band of Gypsies and a healthy satisfying splash of Green’s own hot sauce mixed in for zest.
Greene handles all of the vocals but in true power trio style, Foti and Augusta don’t simply provide the rhythmic and tonal anchor for his fingers’ fretboard excursions.
Throughout the album’s 10 tracks, bassist Foti takes the Jack Bruce (of Cream) role, working his melodic and heavy bass lines in and around Greene’s riffs and solos while Augusta provides a solid, always active thump that’s groovy when necessary or hard and driving while never getting in the way of the song.
Much of the album should sound comfortingly familiar to boomer-age fans of late ’60s classic rock with tunes such as the uptempo Driving Dr. Gonzo and the syncopated groove of the fiery instrumental Electric Bull, and the too-short, back-to-blues basics of Billy Goat Blues recalling the swirling, wah-drenched freakouts of the Summer of Love.
Younger fans looking for a little more contemporary edge should dig the more updated bluesy sound of the stomping Let Me Be or the heavy near-garage metal chorus of Razor Blades.
One could argue that at this point in his young career, Greene is still wearing his influences a little too clearly on his sleeve. While his emotional tenor has its own qualities, often his vocal melodies and phrasing recall Hendrix’s trademark casual vocal asides, and Greene’s guitar solos, most awash in wah-wah, always scream, cry and moan in a familiar but no less interesting and satisfying way.
Ideally, as the trio continues to woodshed, write and record new material (which members are currently doing), Greene will continue to hone and infuse his own voice into his songwriting, singing and guitar playing without losing the lessons, feelings and connections he’s learned from rock and roll’s storied past.
You can check out Thaddeus A. Greene at the free fourth annual Brite Winter Arts & Music Festival where the trio will perform at 6 p.m. today on the Brite Stage. The festival is at West 26th Street and Bridge Avenue in the South Lorain (SoLo) area of Ohio City, Cleveland.
To hear Directory of Thieves in its entirety for free before you do the right thing and support your local independent artists by buying their records, point your InterGoogle machine to http://thaddeusagreene.bandcamp.com.
Malcolm X Abram can be reached at 330-996-3758 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s also on Facebook as Malcolm X Abram. … Go figure.