BY BILL SMITH
New York based 90’s Jam Band; Blues Traveler released their tenth studio album Suzie Crack the Whip, on June 26. For those of you who don’t remember Blues Traveler, they had a string of successful singles including “Run Around.” “Hook.”, and “The Mountains Win Again,” from the 1994 album Four which has sold over 6 million copies. Blues Traveler is lead by larger than life front man, John Popper, who is also a virtuoso harmonica player. The rest of his band mates are no slouches themselves, including Chan Kinchla on guitar, Brendan Hill on drums, Tad Kinchla on bass and Ben Wilson on keyboards. Blues Traveler has strayed in and out of the charts for the better part the past 15 years or so, but they are back to prove they are here to stay.
Suzie Cracks the Whip is a return to form for the Travelers. Their last several records, as well as Popper’s solo efforts have been an odd combination of experimental music, and straying away from what initially attracted fans to the band, Poppers harmonica playing. With Suzie, we find the band visiting a sound which is some what more familiar to true fans of the band. Sounding like it could very easily fit in their catalog between their Save His Soul, Four and Straight On Till Morning albums, Suzie Cracks the Whip is Blues Traveler doing what they do best, which is fun filled, pop laced, ditties, with whimsical lyrical components. There are also several songs that contain a grittier and even a bluesier feel then past efforts.
“You Don’t Have to Love Me” is the first single released off of the album, and it appears to be doing well so far on the charts. Other standout tracks include “Recognize My Friend”, “Cover Me,’ “Big City Girls,” and “I Don’t Wanna Go”, which features American Idol season 9 runner up Crystal Bowersox. Popper’s playing is always flawless, and appears effortless all at the same time. The band has not lost any of its musicality and they still sound terrific. Blues Traveler appears to still be enjoy creating music after over twenty years together. Long time fans of the band should be pleasantly surprised with this album. Popper and the boys aren’t venturing into uncharted musical waters, meaning you know what you’re getting with this album. If you love what Blues Traveler does, you’ll love this album, if not, then you won’t. I would recommend purchasing the expanded edition which features 6 bonus songs not available elsewhere. They certainly enhance the enjoyment of this record.