What makes you tick, darling? What makes you sick, darling? Clockwork hearts have broken parts but there’s a fix, darling.
Feel can’t be manufactured. A lot of other stuff can be faked or Pro-Tooled these days but feel, the essential intangible to really good music, only occurs naturally. It’s the thing that makes one’s hair stand up long before one understands why. Feel is what makes us hit repeat and gush apostolically about a band’s merits to friends. Central Massachusetts-based The Curtis Mayflower oozes feel from the first bubbling notes through the last moaning chords of their excellent debut album Everything Beautiful Is Under Attack (released January 28), which vibrates with immediacy, all hot breath and focused attack on this 11-song, live off the floor collection of one-takers.
The Curtis Mayflower play rock ‘n’ roll of the best, broadest kind – Duane-era Allman Brothers and Delaney & Bonnie and the Butterfield Blues Band in their prime spring to mind – delivered with a confidence, manly aura and sure-footed skill that’s downright seductive, a sound with a wide appeal to electric blues nuts, jam band kids, Muscle Shoals enthusiasts, and perhaps Black Keys fans looking for something deeper and more subtle. Pete Aleksi (guitar, backing vocals), Duncan Arsenault (drums, percussion), Jeremy Moses Curtis (bass, backing vocals), Brooks Milgate (keyboards, accordion, acoustic guitar, backing vocals) and Craig Rawding (lead vocals, harmonica) get after it with a sincerity, rugged tenacity and earthy vibe. In other words, there’s the unmistakable sense that these dudes are after IT in a most tenacious way all over their debut.
All veteran players with resumes that include stints with Levon Helm, Booker T Jones, Jim Carroll, Mark Burgess and others, the combination of personalities and talents in The Curtis Mayflower is evident real deal chemistry. Together these guys swing, hard and long, and their pleasure and purpose infuse the music. And while they can rock the hell out (“Crawl No More,” “Carry Your Burden” and “Ben The Destroyer” growl and howl convincingly) it’s when they slow it down during the early album sequence of “Last Kiss,” “Punchline” and “Paraselene” that it’s most obvious this band knows what it’s doing, reining in and releasing its power with effective intuition. This sequence is also where the deep soul of Rawding’s lead vocals really emerge, a powerhouse cousin to Frankie Miller, Robert Palmer and Warren Haynes (there’s actually a fair amount of kinship with Gov’t Mule with this whole band). One can easily imagine the closed eyes and clenched fists as he drags out all the feeling inside him and launches it at the listener with walloping force.
Everybody can play in this band, like down in the cut, got that groove by the teeth musicianship, and the Impound is knocked out by the flowing, muscular rhythm team of Curtis and Arsenault, the shifting, sexy keyboard work of Milgate (who brings to mind a merger of Pink Floyd’s Rick Wright and young Gregg Allman), and the way guitarist Pete Aleksi burns hard in the right measures but shines equally well when he embeds himself in the sinews. There’s not a ton of solos and the preference for textures and ensemble playing intensifies the feeling of a group effort. Cool little touches abound on Everything Beautiful Is Under Attack, including some sweet baritone sax from Dana Colley on “Clockwork Hearts”.
The Curtis Mayflower joins the growing ranks of what Dirty Impound calls the Real Rock Revolution. It ain’t happening on video channels or most commercial radio stations but something bred in the bone and birthed from Classic Rock’s soil is emerging, and these cats join Dead Boots, Ghosts of Jupiter, Futurebirds, Powder Mill, Rose Hill Drive, The Steepwater Band, Lions In The Street, Go By Ocean and a handful of others uninterested in catering to industry tastes but utterly committed to forging tough, craftsman-wise and gut level true music. It’s also a fair guess that if one is partial to what the Tedeschi-Trucks Band is laying down these days they’re going to find a lot simpatico in The Curtis Mayflower – savvy blues fest organizers take note.
Bottom line, this band is in it to make music that means something to them. There’s zero hint of market planning or demographic catering, just music for the beautiful, life-affirming sake of it, suffused with heart and skill, ready to soundtrack the working weeks and long hours folks face every sunrise.