Coming in at a time where I just so happen to be looking to expand my knowledge on blues, Scotch Hollow’s newest full-length album, Little Tortuga, is a healthy dose of blues that is jam packed with eleven songs that don’t disappoint. Filled with traditional instrumentation and memorable vocal performances, it’s an album that fans of that old-school sound will appreciate.
Starting off the album is “Hocus Pocus,” a standard 12-bar blues tune with the typical lyrical phrasing and repetition that is expected. The track isn’t anything out of the ordinary, but it does show off the country influence in Scotch Hollow’s music, namely thanks to the ever-present slide guitar and lead vocalist Carley Martin’s powerful southern timbre. Her harmonies work well alongside the bare-bones instrumentation and add a ton of needed personality into the music.
Further down the tracklist, we start to hear a male vocalist singing alongside Martin. That would be slide guitarist Mark Verbeck and, although his pipes aren’t as impressive, the back-and-forth on songs like “Little Tortuga” makes for an effective contrast. His voice isn’t as gritty as I like to hear in my blues music, but his wails in the song “Bamma Lamma Jamma” are impressive, to say the least. He’s got a real presence on the album, and never steals the spotlight away from Martin for longer than he needs to.
Musically, the songs off Little Tortuga are consistent. Although they take a back seat to the vocals and aren’t very memorable, they do the job. This album’s only real weak points are present in the lyrical choices. Since the vocals are the big focus on this record, a lot more attention is brought to the lyrics compared to the average album, which, in some cases, has its downsides. Lines like, “You are sugar ’cause you sure is sweet” in the song “Nobody But You” are clichés I can live without.
All in all, it’s a solid effort with no tracks standing out as being significantly better or worse than others. That said, the only things preventing me from labelling Little Tortuga a generic and forgettable blues album are Verbeck’s guitar work and Martin’s vocals. Her voice adds some required personality, and some of the melodies she sings are damn catchy. If you’re looking to expand your blues repertoire, Little Tortuga is well worth the listen. If rootsy blues and country is already your thing, this album isn’t anything you haven’t heard before, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless.
Written by Mathieu Perrier
*edited by Danielle Kenedy