The Cold Stares Adds Another Musical Voice To Their Explosive Blues Rock

The Cold Stares
(Mascot Records)
4 out of 5 stars

Videos by American Songwriter

Chris Tapp loves his riffs. The guitarist/keyboardist/singer/songwriter and overall auteur for Nashville’s The Cold Stares fires them as incessantly as an AR-15 on this, the band’s sixth full-length.

On the face of it, little has changed in Tapps’ overall direction. He and drummer Brian Mullins still grind out husky, hairy blues rawk with the intensity and power you’d expect from their combination of the Black Keys, Jack White, and the bluesy side of Led Zeppelin. But the cover photo now shows three musicians instead of the duo that handled the musical chores for the Stares’ existing catalog. Welcome bassist Bryce Klueh—added to bring more muscle to an already brawny sound.

That makes the power duo– transformed into a power trio—akin to Cream, ZZ Top, Robin Trower’s outfit, and early Gov’t Mule. Opener “Nothing but the Blues” cranks out the riff happy hooks and sharp lyrics (I tried to leave but my car won’t start … I couldn’t drive so I lost my job … Cops broke in and they shot my dog and I’ve got nothing but the blues) with more imagination than the song’s timeworn title suggests. It’s then off to the blues rocking races with the very Trower-ish Hendrix-drenched tone of “Come for Me” and the thumping “The Joy,” the latter a love song riding an oozing, gooey vibe.

But offsetting the trio’s tough, leather-jacketed approach are some subtle, even fragile ballads. Sensitive selections such as the acoustic musings of “The Ghost,” “Throw That Stone” (a lovely duet with sweet female vocals seemingly inspired by Zeppelin’s “The Battle of Evermore”), and the dreamy electric piano that grounds “Sorry I Was Late” (nabbing the “Stairway to Heaven” melody), provide welcome relief from the heavier instincts that dictate the threesome’s overall aesthetic.

It makes this The Cold Stares’ most mature and diverse release, surely a cliché but one that fits. Tapp sings with unforced passion and emotion, not far from a combination of Paul Rodgers and Gary Moore, that never feels pretentious or melodramatic. That’s rare for the blues-rock genre where these guys set up shop. Even when they knock out a relatively common repeated lick on “Thinking About Leaving Again,” the threesome locks in on a swamp-drenched groove that mashes up Cream and Mountain.

Whether it’s the addition of a bassist or Tapp finding a creative niche occasionally removed from the riff-based bluster that dominates much of his material, the impressive Voices speaks to The Cold Stares becoming a major player in the crowded, some may say overcrowded, blues rock genre.

Photo by Jim Arbogast / Prospect PR

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