One Track Mind: Spin Doctors, “If The River Was Whiskey” (2013)

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The title track from If The River Was Whiskey, the first album of new material from 1990s radio-darlings the Spin Doctors since 2005, scuffs up the hitmaking formula for familiar songs like “Little Miss Can’t be Wrong” with a snarling city-blues vibe.

Chris Barron, typically seen as a happy-go-lucky sort before, offers a knife-edge vocal here, even as guitarist Eric Schenkman unleashes a series of grease-popping asides. Singing a heartbroken song of longing, complete with a hard-drinking title image, “If The River Was Whiskey” underscores a truism lost in the group’s neo-hippie platinum-selling heyday.

The Spin Doctors were always capable, as heard on deep cuts like “Shinbone Alley/Hard to Exist” from their 1991 debut smash A Pocket Full of Kryptonite, of this kind of portent-filled groove, this kind of thought-provoking lyric. It’s just that well-known efforts like “Two Princes” was all most people ever heard.

As drummer Aaron Comess and bassist Mark White hold down a withering cadence, the Spin Doctors again make good on that long-ago promise with this scalding blast of lonesome fury. “If The River Was Whiskey” cuts to the quick.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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