A double-disc set comprised of recordings from the 1990s, On The Blue Road (Gonzo Multimedia) is soaked to the bone with talent — and for logical reasons.
Featuring guitarist Merrell Fankhauser (whose credits date back to the ’60s with noted California groups such as the Impacts, Fapardorkly, and HMS Bounty, followed by MU and numerous solo efforts) and Spirit drummer Ed Cassidy (who sadly passed on in December of 2012), Fankhauser Cassidy Band is a classic rock fan’s ticket to eden. Jefferson Starship keyboardist Pete Sears, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band mandolin maestro John McEuen, the late great MU bassist Larry Willey, vocalist and guitarist Tim Fankhauser (Merrell’s son), drummer Art Dougall, vocalist Valerie Johnson, guitarist Larry Curtis, pianist Jim Enos, saxophonist and harmonica man Bruce Clark, and bassists Leroy Fisher and Keith Frasher also submit their mojo to the sessions.
Loaded with exceptional performances emphasizing not only each musician’s individual strength, but the dynamics of democracy, On The Blue Road is a loose and lively affair.
Original tunes like “Tale Of Misty Mountain,” which involves some wicked sax fills amid swaying shimmers of bluesy indentations, the boogie woogie vibe of “Excited,” the sizzling soul power of “Who Shout The Lightnin,'” the pummeling tub-thumping of “Cassidy’s Big Beat,” the sensuous swamp rock of “Hot Night In Louisville,” and Merrell’s autobiographical “Psychedelic Dreams” that blends country arrangements with trippy pop aspirations, check in as just a few showstoppers located on the collection.
An ode to deceased piano legend Nicky Hopkins, the ivory-driven “Nicky’s Song,” with its sweet and sparkly exterior, witnesses to be another self-composed winner — along with the bluesy hard rocking, harmonica-laden title track, the hypnotic tribal touches of “Voodoo In The Jungle,” the peppy hillbilly blues of “Goin’ Back To Delta,” and the aching country twang of “Stolen Guitar Blues,” a tribute to dearly departed Spirit guitarist Randy California’s favorite guitar that was swiped and never returned. Then there’s the funky “Cosmic Lady” and “Brian Berry Blues,” an instrumental tying together jazz figures and blues patterns with striking results.
Enthused covers of “Further On Up The Road,” the toe-twitching “High Heel Sneakers,” and the gritty gloom of “Possession Over Judgment Day” acknowledge the band’s roots, while at the same time slinging new creases into the fold. Professional and experienced, but organic to the core, Fankhauser Cassidy Band sure had a good thing going, and how wonderful it is we have On The Blue Road to remember them by.