Review: GA-20 ‘Live In Loveland’—Raw, Raucous and Rocking Pure Electrified Blues

Live in Loveland
(Karma Chief)
4 out of 5 stars

Videos by American Songwriter

Those who complain that they don’t make blues today like they used to, haven’t heard GA-20.

This Boston based trio with the unique lineup of two guitars (Pat Faherty and Matthew Stubbs), drums (Tim Carman) and no extraneous bass to clutter the sound, has been burning up stages since 2017. Along the way they have unleashed a steady stream of raucous, rocking and above all pure roots blues and stripped-down soul albums, somehow recorded between dates on a relentless touring schedule.

GA-20 returns with their first full length live disc (there was an earlier EP), caught in Loveland, Ohio, not coincidentally the location of the Karma Chief label, home to all their recordings. It’s a rollicking, if somewhat brief (30 minute) set, captured as it happened, without the post show sweetening common to other “live” documents. The notes explain “recorded directly to ¼” tape” and we’d expect nothing less from these guys who revel in the grooves of the rawest, most house-rocking blues exemplified by their hero Hound Dog Taylor. The threesome is so influenced by his rugged, unvarnished attack they delivered an entire album of songs from the legendary bluesman.

None appear here, but there is plenty of tough, soulful, gutsy and above all genuine guitar rocking so no one will care. Gritty covers of Clifton Chenier’s “My Soul,” Lloyd Price’s broken hearted classic “Just Because,” Bo Diddley’s Caribbean/reggae-corker “Crackin’ Up,” and Little Walter’s slow, sultry, grind “My Baby’s Sweeter” combined with a half dozen similarly unadorned Faherty/Stubbs originals for a compelling mix of what these guys do best.

The rest of the tunes are amped up versions of studio recordings with the exception of “Hold It One More Time,” a ripping ditty, part surf/part garage rock, that makes its debut. They go early Rolling Stones on the jittery “By My Lonesome,” take a trip to the jungle for the tribal beat of “Double Gettin’” featuring a hot-wired guitar solo that erupts as it progresses, and lock into a Chicago shuffle for “Dry Run,” the latter with lyrics about “a girl who I thought was really into me but she was just practicing her flirting,” says Faherty before the tune kicks in.  

Faherty isn’t a technically great singer but that’s not necessary and he’s fine for this relatively basic music. The interaction of his and Stubbs’ guitars create a tension and release perfected over years of roadwork that snaps and crackles these performances.

Why this album—almost EP length—couldn’t have been twice as long, is unclear, but it remains a potent example of GA-20 combusting on stage.

And you won’t even miss the bass.         

Photo by Matthieu Joubert / Colemine Records

Leave a Reply

The Meaning Behind “Time of the Season” by The Zombies