Bamboo “Bamboo”

Bamboo is in large part the work of guitarist David Ray, formerly one third of legendary folk-blues shouters Koerner, Ray and Glover. Blues enthusiasts coming into this later project should be warned, however, that this is a far cry from the rural acoustics of Ray’s previous group. Instead, Ray and pals traverse a weird, labyrinthine conglomeration of jazz, blues, country, and psychedelic rock that makes for a disorientating yet eminently enjoyable listen.

Singing and songwriting is split here between Ray and his two principal accomplices, Will Donicht and Daniel Hall, though it is clearly Ray who leads the proceedings. For some reason Hall only makes it as an unofficial member, for despite writing and singing two of the funkiest numbers his photograph is absent from the cover. The band is rounded out by a number of west coast session players, including a welcome appearance by esteemed First National Band steel player Red Rhodes.

The songs here are all great, though some ultimately prove less memorable than others. I’d say that Ray’s “Tree House” takes the title for worst offender, marred by its tacky vibes and uninspired lyrics. His “Virgin Albatross,” however, is a serious slice of late-sixties country rock, while the band delves deep into Band-style Americana with Donicht’s “The Odyssey of Thadeus Baxter.” One of my favorite elements to this record – and one that it oddly enough shares with fellow Koerner, Ray and Glover alumni John Koerner’s landmark Running, Jumping, Standing Still – is its extensive use of honky tonk tack piano. Though the playing isn’t quite as remarkable as Willie Murphy’s ragtime runs on Running, it still lends the music a subtle, saloon-band edge.

Daniel Hall’s two contributions are at once the bluesiest, worst-spelled, and most explicitly electric. The catchy shuffle of “Blak Bari Chari Blooz” has some great Hammond organ work, while “Sok Mi Toot Tru Luv” features the record’s deepest grooves. Repeated listens prove rewarding here, so anyone that finds themselves off-put by this collection’s many eccentricities should try spinning it again a little later on down the line – there’s a good chance something will stick before long. This one tends to be underrated by most critics, making it among the easier Elektra Records rarities to hunt down.

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“Blak Bari Chari Blues”

:) Original | 1969 | Elektra | search ebay ]

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