Solid Hard Blues

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Frank Kocher, Turbula

A blues-rock trio that includes full-page ads for a barbeque sauce and a textile artisan in their album booklet can't be all bad. Together since 1986, Too Slim and the Taildraggers have released numerous albums, including 2007's "The Fortune Teller," and are back with "Free Your Mind." Their sound features the vocals and guitar work of Tim "Too Slim" Langford, and doesn't try for anything beyond familiar hard rock with good lead guitar breaks and sharp slide playing. The use of an occasional Hammond organ and female backup singers gives a taste of the Black Crowes, but this is mostly power trio music in the mold of Gov't Mule.

Spokane native Langford has an amiable vocal presence and is a smooth pro on the fretboard. His "Last Train" is a funny observational bit about world affairs; he's riding the last train and Hunter S. Thompson is the engineer. "Devil in a Devilwide" follows with heavy riffs behind grumbled vocals about a mojo mama with evil intentions. The disc's title track follows, and is also good – though it has nearly identical structure and is in the same key as "Devil" and somehow ended up sequenced right after it. Langford goes for a lengthy guitar opus on the slower "Testament," and it is clear that he is an admirer of Neil Young, because the solos on this cut mirror those on "Cowgirl in the Sand," as does the melody. "Peace With Your Maker" is another slower tune that features superb guitar work, while "This Phone" rocks harder. The album closer is "The Light," a gospel-blues sung by guest vocalist Lauren Evans. This sounds like a cut from a different disc, the vocal is superb and the arrangement lush, including tasty fills by Langford.

This is an experienced, road-tested band that realizes that Langford's Les Paul is the big draw, and the disc is a series of showcases for him to shine. The music is a good time, nothing extraordinary, but it rocks and has some hooks. What's not to like?