Aaron Comess - Blues for Use
Record Label: Self-released
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Starving artists can learn a lot from Spin Doctors drummer Aaron Comess. On his third solo album Blues for Use he deftly tackles a dozen instrumental blues-tinged gems with awe-inspiring effortlessness. Not only that, he understands simplicity and brevity, and in doing so has created an album that never once tacks on superfluous layers, acrouchements or grandiosity. In short, its aural heaven.
Album opener “Surprise, Part 1,” is a 40-second instrumental that serves as a prologue before diving into the chugging “Hard Ball,” a song that has a fiery spirit but finds time to recoil and scale back. Those dialed down moments, employed by a lilting slide guitar are the moments give the song a weight and density all its own. The slide guitar returns on the languorous and hazy “Guilty Until Proven Innocent,” a supple and warm masterwork that lingers long after the final seconds. Blues for Use has many sterling moments, but few are as magnetic as “Guilty.”
The disc’s first acoustic effort comes in the form of the doe-eyed effort “Sunrise,” a deeply-felt concoction of immeasurable beauty and placid grace. Not one to mire in placidity, Comess and Co. kick up the energy on the spitting “Gorilla,” a titanic and stormy current of serious ass-kicking. The uniquely titled “Bajelirious” is the disc’s longest effort, a six-minute epic that is equal parts calculated, impassioned and indelible. Easily one of the disc’s high-water marks, “Bajelirious” draws its strength from some first-rate playing from Teddy Kumpel, whose session time includes the likes of Rickie Lee Jones, Feist, Marshall Crenshaw and you guessed it, the Spin Doctors.
The disc’s back half opens with “Clear,” a song that in many ways serves as an extension of “Guilty Until Proven Innocent,” and “Casa Colonial,” an acoustic effort that takes the fragility of “Sunrise” but dives far deeper. The title track is surprisingly rustic and has an acoustic soul vibe that feels culled from time spent along the Mississippi River, while the near-perfect “Mooonrise,” has a sonic veneer eerily reminiscent of Muscle Shoals’ Fame Studios. Acoustic guitars return on the gorgeous lullaby “Finally,” a song that seems tailor-made for Sunday evenings on a Manhattan rooftop. Album closer “Surprise, Part 2,” varies greatly from the opener and pines for something weightier and darker but ultimately finishes in a manner that is both hopeful, resolute and ebullient.
The many charms and peaks of Blues For Use is certainly no surprise to anyone who has tracked Comess’ career with the Spin Doctors, his third solo albums or his in-demand session and stage work, most notably in the James Maddock Band. But its brilliance also serves as a lesson for the hordes of artists who seem more than content to mail it in. Haphazard, lackluster albums from industry veterans are far too common and the litany of excuses can range anywhere from laziness to frequent drug use and on down the line. Blues for Use has none, if any, of these hallmarks. Instead it’s a glimmering work from a drummer who has mastered the art of musicianship. Young pupils, take notice.