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Blues Traveler
Straight On Till Morning
by John Colling
Soundwaves, National
Aug 20th, 1997



Like contemporaries Phish, Widespread Panic, and Black Crowes, Blues Traveler is known as a "jam band," preferring to engage in long, drawn-out, and frequently self-indulgent excursions rather than the in-and-out, point-blank ease of 3-to-4 minute singles. Since 1994's four CD, though, the band - singer/harmonica player John Popper, guitarist Chan Kinchla, bass player Bob Sheehan, and drummer Brendan Hill - has recognized the value of a good, strong single that radio stations will play until everyone is sick to death of hearing it.

That approach helped Blues Traveler do boffo business with four, and the boys hone that craft on Straight On Till Morning. Most tracks clock in at four minutes or so - far from the grandiose treatments many of their tunes receive on stage. Most are pretty damned good and rock with the patented Blues Traveler groove, although some, including the opening "Carolina Blues" and "Business As Usual," are heavy with the kind of blithering, overblown Popper harp workouts that prevent a large number of otherwise interested folks from becoming full fledged BT-heads. Popper's obviously a great technician, he just needs to lose the "how-many-notes-can-I-jam-into-one-solo" approach. It'd be nice to hear more of Kinchla's guitar, especially as presented on "Yours," one of the CD's longer tunes.

Big John's harmonica on "Great Big World" is as it should be: complimenting the tune, rather than burying it. His lyrics run the gamut of emotions, from the dark fear of "Justify The Thrill" and humorous narrative of "Psycho Joe" to the metaphorical ramblings on "Battle of Someone" and the adolescent uncertainty of "Felicia."