Before Mike Mattison was the lead singer of the Derek Trucks Band, he was making music as part of Scrapomatic, a duo out of Minneapolis with guitarist/vocalist Paul Olsen. Over the last few years he’s spent countless nights fronting the slide guitarist’s band, but he’s always found time for his roots. The band’s new record, Sidewalk Caesars, is all the reason one needs to know why Mattison and Olsen have kept things going all these years.
The band’s last album, 2006’s Alligator Love Cry, was Olsen and Mattison as a duo but enhanced by a rotating field of players. The new record is a slight change; the musical style is the same – it’s a mixture of blues, Americana, jazz…well, a little bit of everything. However, they’re now backed by Tyler Greenwell (drums) and Ted Pecchio (bass), both formerly of the Codetalkers and Susan Tedeschi’s band. Scrapomatic has also added a second guitarist Dave Yoke, and the result is a new, beefed up group – one with vast potential.
"Drink House" has barroom feel, appropriate given the title. The rhythm section (plus Count M’Butu on percussion) is spot-on, keeping perfect time as Yoke and Olsen color the tune with their guitar, creating the perfect drinking song.
"Killing Yourself On Purpose" is a slow, ambling tune that’s Scrapomatic at their very best. It’s got an old-timey feel, the band’s got a leisurely pace, and Mattison’s vocals are stellar. His voice is second to none, and this track shows his immense range, from a low growl to high notes that few can muster.
Derek Trucks makes an appearance on two tracks, the disc-opening "He Called My Name" and "I Want The Truth," one of the stand-out tracks on the disc. His slide is as good as ever, and he really meshes well with Yoke and Olsen in a triple-guitar attack. "I Just Want to Hang Around With You" is another great track, a hyper, fast-paced rocker that shows another side of the band. Greenwell’s cymbals smash and Yoke’s guitar wails, and the song’s summed up in one word: fun.
Following is "Good Luck With Your Impossible Dream," the last track on the album. It’s soft, touching, and when compared with the preceeding track, shows the versatility and range of Scrapomatic. They can be loud and rowdy, but can also tone things down without coming off as too soft.
What separates Alligator Love Cry from this new offering is the thickness of the music as a whole. Yoke is a great addition to the line-up. He clearly comes from the Derek Trucks school of guitar, and at times their tone is ridiculously similar. Scrapomatic’s sound is enhanced by a consistent rhythm section and more guitar sound, and it makes for beautiful music and allows for a multitude of new possibilities. Here’s to hoping we get to see more from this underrated act.
Sidewalk Caesars is out June 24 on Landslide Records