Michael Tarbox used to lead a great band called Tarbox Ramblers. Hailing from the Boston area, Tarbox Ramblers were the leaders of the new blues revival for the past 15 years with a blend of academic and heartfelt approach that won our hearts. The first album for Rounder Records in 2000 was a furious collection of authentic and raw blues which relied on the primitive traditions on North Mississippi blues and Appalachian folk. The second album also for Rounder A Fix Back East was a step towards rock roots, split produced by one and only Jim Dickinson and Paul Q. Kolderie who we know best from his work with Morphine. Then, a long decade with sporadic limited edition discography followed.
Through all that time, Michael Tarbox all but stood idle. He toured with a revolving line up the country multiple times, even entered the studio a few times. The songs were ready, but the band had a chronic problem with drummers. Without the record label, struggling to keep the band together, and perhaps some other reasons, Michael decided to crowdfund his next record last year, without much help from the outside. The new album, Works and Days is the outcome.
Without pretensions, the record is simply imagined as a collection of songs, without a particular theme that connects them. This is understandable, the record has been conceived over a large period of time, but the variety actually contributes to the overall quality of this new record. In the long period since 2004, I can only imagine that there was a lot of songs to choose from, but Michael and his producer friend Chris Rival have good ears and experience to identify those songs that worked particularly well in the studio at the time of recording.
In essence, the record is an emotional aggregate of many changes that Michael went through. The friendships that were evolving, struggles that they were going through and the arrival of his daughter. But the good news is that the relief is in the art. This truly comes through in this record.
Sound-wise, the new record dwells even more into rock territory. While the first record was almost entirely filled with traditionals, the new record, much like the second one is filled with original songs. From wild rocking Hey Mister Starlight over Lou Reed-like The Night Train To Chelsea to soft and almost spoken word title song The Tower of Works and Days, there is a little bit of every rock’n’roll taste on this record.The final result is intimate and exciting, and for me at least, long awaited record that will stick around for quite some time.
First published on rockxs.com.