Reservoir is the newest full-length release from the Chicago band Great Divide. If one desired to generalize the their type of music it could be deemed ‘roots music’, because they seem to amalgamate blues, rock, soul, R & B and funk into something all their own. The band consists of 7 musicians, so they have no lack of sonic potential. Yet this album’s sound is very crisp & clean, as they employ little effects or reverb and give each of their instruments proper space from each other. They like to play dynamic & toe-tapping blues-rock that takes much from R & B and southern-funk, often infusing their music with that coveted Creole ‘side-step’ groove. In addition they also play few “traditional” blues numbers. In these they seem to focus on slowly building their energy towards the end of the song, really letting their instruments wail in the mean time, before they move together en route to stylish crescendos.
They kick off the album with one of their best, the song Waiting. Here we encounter that energetic funky-blues-rock. The emotive guitar says Chicago, the voice says Nashville, and the rhythm section/horn interaction says New Orleans. And it works. For Fleetwood, another album highlight, we find an upbeat number that transitions from funky R & B to subdued soul and back again, before a great reggae breakdown replete with witty and fun brass involvement. It is clear that song progression is a focus, and a talent, of this band. The average song length is close to 5 minutes, but usually they don’t ever sound the same throughout as they rely on distinct and clear progression/alteration to keep things fresh.
Another song off Reservoir that showcases their talents, and actually counters their usual use of song progression, is Rainy Bethea Blues. This one is more of a straight through Chicago blues number with a fantastic dancing piano and walking rhythm line. On this song we can really hear the lead-singer, Teddy, show off his pipes. They don’t try to re-invent the wheel with this song, its nothing new – just damn good blues music.
Teddy’s voice fits his band’s sound well. It sounds, at times, like a younger and thinner John Popper. It is clean sounding naturally, but he has the ability to get highly emotive and raspy – without sounding too trained or strained.
But what really makes the album even more-so, is the way in which they use their varied instruments. The brass and guitars are the emotional expressers, sometimes in call-and-response, sometimes in tandem, or in contrast. But they are always supplementing each other positively and improving the musical communication of the songs – letting Teddy tell the story (which is what a good blues vocalist does). What also adds positively to the sound is their attention to detail, specifically in always separating their two guitarists – one of whom usually played more yowling sounds while the other kept it more straightforward and “solo-like” – always keeping one completely in the left channel and the other in the right channel.
Giving each instrument a place in the stereo field gave the resulting music a wonderfully uncluttered feeling, even with 7 musicians. This actually is a good description for the album in general; even though there is blending of many genres, with numerous musicians, the result is a nuanced – yet somehow relatively minimal and crisp – collection of roots music songs (let’s just hope the next time they delve into more reggae, as this author really enjoyed the reggae switch-ups in both Fleetwood and in Waters Roll In). Nevertheless, if you are into roots-music, soul, rock or the blues then consider adding Great Divide’s Reservoir to your musical repertoire.