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Blues Traveler: Suzie Cracks The Whip

New Jersey blues rockers go mainstream.

Eleventh album, against the odds, from weathered jam band pioneers. So what do they do? Bring in songwriters, Gym Class Heroes’ producing duo (S*A*M and Sluggo) and an American Idol finalist. Hmm...

Squeaky-clean production rules, and clichés roll out like there’s no tomorrow: frontman John Popper heaves and yee-haws ‘tonight I’ll be your man’, ‘I wanna hold your hand’ and some stuff about looking for puzzle pieces. At least there’s some salvation, with the likes of Devil In The Details unleashing redeeming, gravely vocals plus a welcome dose of free-spirited, jamming style.

Similarly, Things Are Looking Up channels the satisfying soloing and guttural urgency one would associate with such a seasoned group cultivated in rugged southern blues-rock spheres. Too bad this isn’t sustained, as Love Is Everything affirms: more dozy cowboys gently farting around a campfire than rodeo riding. Harmless, but thin.