Blues Traveler, with their previous disc four, alienated some
longtime fans with their newfound stardom. Just as Deadheads cringed when
"Touch of Grey" brought a new breed of fans to their camp - and
more recently, when the Spin Doctors went from under-appreciated cultdom
to overexposed burnout, thanks to "Two Princes" and "Little
Miss Can't Be Wrong" - Blues Traveler's hits "Run-Around"
and "Hook" brought with them an almost unwelcome level of
Rather than succumb to the sweet smell of pop radio stardom, or return to
their roots, Blues Traveler perform as two nearly distinct bands on their
followup disc, Straight On Till Morning.
On one hand, this disc takes the the band back to their H.O.R.D.E. days
and before, when the jams flowed more freely. The leadoff track and first
single, "Carolina Blues", knocks out any initial perceptions
that Blues Traveler will 'sell out'.
Instead of crafting the tune for pop radio, this cut owes more to 1970s ZZ
Top and Led Zeppelin than the Barenaked Ladies. Other cuts such as
"Great Big World" and the all-too-short "Psycho Joe"
leave the impression that John Popper would rather play an extended
harmonica solo than tinker with the perfect 3 minute song.
However, there's another side to Blues Traveler - the one which notched
them a pair of top 40 hits from four. "Canadian Rose"
is a softer song, not unlike a more refined "Hook", which could
explode on AAA radio. "Most Precarious" represents the upbeat
song most likely to make a dent in the pop charts, while another softer
ballad, "Yours" also stands a chance at putting Blues Traveler
back in the public's eye.
It appears clear that the days of lengthy solos may be reduced from Blues
Traveler's arsenal, but not completely forgotten. What remains to see is
if the band's longtime fans will support such a split personality - and if
the 'pop' fans can appreciate the rawer side of Blues Traveler.