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Because the 'Hook' brought them back
by Jess Barrios
Stallion online,
Mar 3rd, 2003



Blues Traveler has come a long way since popularizing the blues scene into the rock n' roll market with their chart-topping album four in 1994. In the age of one-hit wonders and bands that average a three-CD career, the New York blues-rock foursome has been past due for a "greatest hits" CD for a good while.

In the band's latest delivery, Travelogue: Blues Traveler Classics, the 17-track, 77-minute album covenants [sic] all Blues Travelers chart toppers and favorites since their self-titled debut CD in 1990. Digitally captured are the ever-familiar sounds of John Popper's harmonica, Brendan Hill on drums, Chan Kinchla with guitar, and the late bassist, Bob Sheehan.

Headlining the CD is "But Anyway," one of Blues Traveler's more lively tracks. The recording summarizes what the album has in store for the buyer. even though it's partially instrumental. The drums, guitar, and harmonica coincide to create an appeal of an energetic "folk" song. The track had a major debut on the end credits of the Farrelly Brothers movie, "Kingpin," where movie characters get into the groove and dance.

"Once upon a midnight dearie...," the opening lyrics to "Run-around," the song most associated with Blues Traveler, falls onto track ten of "Travelogue." An instant classic since its release in '94, the recording displayed Popper's distinctive talent of making the harmonica scream and sing in succession, leaving many of the "garage bands" at that time wanting to incorporate the pocket instrument into their music.

However, it's not until the track "Crash Burn" that the audience gets to feel the full effect of Popper's defining playing. Keeping a fast tempo, the harmonica man Popper can be heard competing against guitarist Kinchla in alternating, dueling solos. The song mixes the pulse of rock with the rhythm of blues. The recording brings back the atmosphere of a college-town bar, carrying more than enough beat to get everyone in the locale up and moving.

Of course to every bands career, a ballad must follow. "Hook" fulfills that spot, tracing back to the blues' original intention of singing about the depression of love. Like "Run-around," Popper wrote the music and words with his natural "soul-man" style. He constructed his lyrics as a poet using sorrow and composed it in the relaxed nature of music composition. The final results made this one of the few ballads were listeners didn't have to feel awkward about being on the dance floor and not slow dancing. With the play on words, "the hook brings you back...," the voice takes the listeners on his emotional love roller coaster of insecurity with relationships.

Fans of Counting Crows and Sister Hazel will definitely want to set Travelogue next to the other two in their music collection. All three share the mellow air tones of soft rock and a type of "happy music" that shines away from the anarchy tunes of punk rock.

Even though this is technically a "greatest hits" CD, this doesn't mean the end for Blues Traveler. On Feb. 12, the band headed back into the studio to work on their next album, proving that they will not fall in the stereotype of being "just a '90s band."