Blues Traveler hasn't sounded better in its fifth studio release,
Straight On Till Morning. Then again, it has never sounded worse,
The New York foursome has gained the main core of its legions of fans
mainly from its endless touring and profound live performances. That's
where the group really soars.
But when vocalist John Popper, guitarist Chan Kinchla, bassist Bobby
Sheehan and drummer Brendan Hill enter the studio to cut a record, the
result never compares to their live jam sessions.
Straight On really does deliver great songs in the shadow of Blues
Traveler's multiplatinum previous album four. With the
guitar-driven opening number "Carolina Blues," the band has
never sounded so true to the blues.
Popper's voice continues its knack for grabbing the listener on the
album's best cut "Great Big World." "So hold on this great
big world," he sings. "We only get to rent, we never get to
With "Psycho Joe," Popper displays his ability to write his
witty lyrics that accentuate the other musicians. "Battle of
Someone," though, finds Popper struggling for wisdom, "The
preceding verses are the halves of my soul, I'm just the battlefield and
that is my role."
Popper's harmonica playing has even started to weigh down certain songs
("Justify the Thrill" and "Canadian Rose") because of
the similarity each solo seems to have. Oddly enough, he comes back to
form in songs like the perky "Felicia" and the funky
"Business As Usual" with mind-blowing solos.
Each member of Blues Traveler is an excellent musician. One only needs to
see them live to know. But the band still seems to lack either the
capability or the initiative to put together a great studio album that
does not fluctuate between great and ordinary songs.