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Howlin' Diablos: "Live"  E-mail
Blues
Thursday, 09 February 2006 09:56
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Howling Diablos
"Live"
Top Dog Records CD 50002-2 TDR

By John Sinclair


They can't be called a blues band by any stretch of the imagination--they don't even play the blues--but the Howling Diablos are deeply rooted in the blues matrix.

Lead vocalist/guitarist/producer/composer Martin "Tino" Gross is one of the finest blues drummers of the modern era; he's backed up everybody from Big Walter Horton and Victoria Spivey to Willie D. Warren, Juanita McCray, and The Butler Twins, and he's hosted the exemplary blues program Big City Blues Cruise on WEMU-FM for more than 15 years.

Tino's long-time partner (they hooked up as members of the Urbations around 1981), saxophonist/co-producer "Showtime" Johnny Evans, has contributed to many local blues ensembles and is an accomplished jazz soloist as well.

And lead guitarist Jeff Grand--who's produced albums by Uncle Jessie White and the Butler Twins--is a stone bluesman with a deep, soulful sound, impeccable taste, and one of the most intense slide guitar attacks you'd ever want to hear.

(In the spirit of full disclosure, it should also be stated that all three have backed up this writer in performance as long-standing members of John Sinclair & the Blues Scholars and are close personal friends to boot.)

But they're here before us as members of the Motor City's hottest modern rock band, the Howling Diablos, performing live  in front of a studio full of fellow music fanatics and frenzied followers of the big beat, laying down a set of their most popular numbers as if their lives depended on just how far over the top they could make it go.

The Howling D's knock out crowd favorites like "Funky Daddy," "Reefer Man," "Nobody in Detroit," "Junkyard Jesus," "Business Man's Legs" and "Ban Lon Stew" with abandon and power, driven by the massive rhythms churned up by bassist Mike Hollis and drummer Jeff Fowlkes. Jeff Grand slashes and burns his industrial-strength rock guitar leads from deep in the heart of the beast, fed back by Johnny Evans' wailing saxophonics, and the band rocks it all with a steady grinding roll.

Martin Gross has been one of this writer's favorite songwriters since his wild improvised lyrics to songs like "Ether Mambo" used to set the Progressive Blues Band on fire at the turn of the 80s, and he continues to come up with some of the sickest, most twisted songs in modern popular music.

Demented sagas with a personal root like "Go Gene Go"--a musical salute to Tino's childhood idol Gene Krupa--and "Record Collection" (of which Tino possesses one of the world's finest in terms of 78s and 45s) deliver a particular kick, while "X-Mas in Jail" takes its place in the pantheon of jailbird anthems like "Angola Bound," "Please Mr. Judge" and Andre Williams' immortal "Pulling Time."

In response to the crowd's chanted demand, the set climaxes with "Babysitter," a throbbing slab of musical menace that raises a cry to "Call the babysitter--this beat is getting bigger and bigger!" And it's just the same with the Howling Diablos: their insane beat keeps on growing in size and thrust, and their following gets larger and more frenetic every day.

The Howlin  D's are filling a serious need for intelligence, wit, and uninhibited fun in pop music today, and they're bound for glory in a big way.


--New Orleans
March 1, 1997



(c) 1997, 2006 John Sinclair. All Rights Reserved.


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