Had I not read in his bio that this is a debut album, I would not have guessed that the Gary Cain Band’s recent project “Twangadelic Bluesophunk” was a first album. This collection of blues tunes – which occasionally wanders into funk, as might be guessed from the title – is polished, energetic, and a whole lot of fun.
Cain, who is based in Kitchener, Ontario, explores a wide thematic ground in this album. Love gone wrong, love that needs to end, and even the current political climate earn his attention here. What especially stands out, however, is Cain’s fretwork – agile, melodic, speedy when it needs to be, his guitar playing is exceptional, and it is no surprise that he was named a finalist in the blues guitar portion of Lee Ritenour’s Six String Theory contest in 2016.
The gauntlet is thrown down with the first track, “Live Wire,” a high-energy track that opens with an intense guitar riff and definitely will get your toes tapping as you listen. If I had to pick a favorite on the album, it would be the next track, “Pipes and Spoons,” a wry (and all too accurate) look at our current political climate and the lack of a middle ground (and the overemphasis on judging others). Cain’s lyrics and fretwork pair perfectly with a bit of funk just under the surface on this tune.
Another highlight on the album is “No Foolin’,” a slow burner of a blues tune with more of Cain’s fiery fretwork. Listen, too, for the terrific bass line from bandmate Tom Nagy on this one. The instrumental “Twang Strut” reminds me strongly of some of The Sadies’ work – that rockabilly sound driven by great guitar playing – and there is just enough rhythmic variety to the piece to make it really intriguing. “Girl’s Too Rich” is a saucy, clever tune about finding the right person and not reaching for someone who doesn’t want what you have to offer. “Faith Healer” closes the album with a slow, slightly spacey instrumental – a bit blues, a bit prog rock, and all delightful.
This album provides a superb introduction to Gary Cain’s excellent guitar chops, and he’s well supported by his rhythm section, bassist Tom Nagy and drummer Don McDougall. The whole project shows that the group are unafraid to take risks and completely willing to step out of the blues box into new territory, and I look forward to hearing what they do in subsequent albums. If you’re looking for that next terrific blues album for your collection, give this project a listen.