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Blues Traveler
Bridge
by Eric R. Danton
Hartford Courant, Hartford, CT
Apr 27th, 2001



From upbeat ditties to ballads, Blues Traveler tunes have always been tightly crafted pop songs packed with hooks and brimming with John Popper's frenetic harmonica playing. Bridge, the band's new album, due out May 8, backs away from that radio-ready approach. The songs are unmistakably Blues Traveler's, but the album has a looser vibe more in line with the group's jam-band roots.

Different musical textures account for much of the altered sound, with subtle keyboards on some songs and greater use of wah-wah and other guitar effects throughout. Popper dials back the harmonica as well, often providing tasteful ornamentation in place of his trademark ear-busting solos.

Many of the band's signature quirks remain, particularly on the vocals. Lead singer Popper has a knack for singing rapid-fire lyrics over a repeating background vocal, a device he employs to great effect on "Pretty Angry (for J. Sheehan)."

The poignant tune, about the 1999 death of bass player Bobby Sheehan, is a standout track on Bridge and among the best ballads by a band that has written some good ones.

In fact, Blues Traveler elegantly honors Sheehan's memory throughout Bridge (shorthand for the bass player's nickname, "Brooklyn Bob") without clinging too tightly to a musical legacy that would grow to stifle the band.