Reviews for The Mystery Spot...
And lo and behold, Small Stone hits another one out of the park. As good as the Brought Low album is, Five Horse JohnsonĂs latest is even BETTER. ItĂs one of the best rock ŠnĂ roll albums IĂve heard in years. Fuck the major labels. They wouldnĂt know good rock if it blew them in the back of an Econoline van. HavenĂt for years. Finally, there is an album that I can apply the tag ˘roots rock÷ to without cringing. Excellent songs, performances, solos-this shit kicks ass and is just so solid in every way. Buy it yesterday.
Scott SewardFebruary, 2007www.decibelmagazine.com
Toledo's bad ole boys rock on.
Until 2006, Five Horse Johnson struck me as an average, admittedly zesty pub rock crew toiling beneath an above average moniker, so I must admit to approaching this album with considerable reticence. When it comes to moonshine-fuelled, Sledgehammer-heavy, roughneck, bruise blooze it's gonna have to be a mighty potent brew to stop me reaching for a tall drink O' Alabama ThunderpussyÓ
ZOIKS! Looks like I may have to add "The Mystery Spot" to the play list as there's more explosive, inebriate, bellicose swagger on the disc than a whiskey-soaked Oliver Reed throwing beery roundhouses at Molly Hatchet's road crewÓ
Five Horse Johnson - The Mystery Spot This album is a real rump kicker, a Molotov cocktail of swollen, infectious, Frank Marino guitar groove, mixin' it up via some rattlesnake-mean, Thorogood / Jon Spencer, street fightin' blues scuzz, a riotous, celebratory ode to re-fried, gutsy, bad boy boogie that's a Mahogany Rush from the get go. And after 45 minutes, Five Horse Johnson's V 12 engine is still red linin' at maximum revs.
I urge you to dig out your Blackfoot, Rory Gallagher, Foghat, or Marino albums and not marvel at the sheer audacity of F.H.J gleefully cherry picking all the volatile, grimy bombast of 70's, white-line fever blues rock and successfully searing their own white-hot brand into it's well-worn, denim & leather hide. I must contest the accuracy of their reference to 'goin' off like ten cent dynamite, since "The Mystery Spot" explodes like a gun powder cock nuts deep in a semtex glory hole!
The whole album is a B-B-Q-sticky, riff treat from start to finish but the woozy, Beefheart booglarization of 'Drag You There' is a standout for me. All in all 'The Mystery Spot' adds much verisimilitude to the age old fear of Rock N' Roll being a corruptive force, since a few bars into album opener, and I was blearily reachin' for a ice-cold beer with a hot broad chaser, hot diggity, these bad ole boy's mean business.
Just how important is the harmonica in the history of rock and blues, and why do so few bands use it today? Ohio's Five Horse Johnson, however,have been true diciples of the harpover the course of their six albums. Their form of heavy blues rocksounds authentic but like Clutch, Raging Slab and Halfway to Gone, they have added a hardened modern edge so they appeal to stoner's or fans of '70's classic rock. If 2003's "Last Men On Earth" was merely good not great, "The Mystery Spot"is a big return to form.The title track is true Captain Beefheart blues, frontman Eric Oblander must have upped his smokes, while "...of Ditch Diggers and Drowning Men" touches Skynyrd slide guitar heaven. Those not moved by the slow blues of "Drag You There" have had their soul surgically removed by too much death metal.
Ian WebsterTerrorizer #145 May, 2006
The Toledo Blade
ThereĂs nothing subtle or soft about ToledoĂs Five Horse Johnson, and thatĂs a good thing. The bandĂs sound is a hard-driving, ZZ Top-like take on boogie blues stomp that echoes fellow northwest Ohioans The Soledad Brothers. Their fifth disc is an exercise in energy and rootsy attitude, making it an ideal party album and a perfect summer disc that cries out to be blared from car speakers.
R.L.June 25th, 2006www.toledoblade.com
Well, I have heard of this band but this is the first time I have ever heard the music. This is the bands 6th record and features Clutch drummer, Jean Paul Gaster. From what I have read the band have stuck to their roots of their down and dirty brand of stoned, heavy blues inspired rock that goes for the gut! The first and title track has a cool groove that just sort of sucks you into the record. Ten Cent Dynamite is next and a hard hitting track and a bit like some of the new Clutch stuff. Call me Down sees some slide guitar but no slide solo. OF Ditch Diggers and Down, is a very cool acoustic track, one of the best on the record. A lot of cool tracks, but I wonĂt go through them all. Fans of the Grady, the Austin, Texas based band by Ex- Big Sugar guitarist, Geordie Johnson, will get into this record for sure as these bands are into the same kind of vibe!
If you dig: Clutch (newest), Honky, Grady, ZZTOP
ScottJune, 2006 (issue # 35)www.lowcut.dk
Brian has a bunch to say about these guys, so I thought I'd cut in on his dance and chime in as a more "casual user." I'll let'm hit you with some facts and qualitative stuff before I unleash my torrent of blab.
Brian: Now in their 11th year as a band, Five Horse Johnson could be looked upon as the old men of the fast-becoming-hip Small Stone label. The Mystery Spot is the band's sixth full-length release (their fifth for Small Stone) and those, like myself, who are long-time fans will not be surprised to hear the band as strong as ever. Sure, they're currently drummerless, but because they're Five Horse Johnson, they're able to secure the services of one of the world's best drummers, J.P. Gaster. Such things happen to great bands.
Me: What these guys do is hotwire the 50-year tradition of broad-hipped electric blues/r&b the way John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters (and his full-on band) did up through "white blues" (Cream/Captain Beefheart/Stackwaddy et. al.) which was precursor/ concurrent to early metal (see: Sabbath, Black; Zeppelin, Led, up to the band they borrowed a drummer from, Clutch). The boys belly-flop into the deep mud-clogged river of America and belch out the steel-shod blues shorn of beer rock, sissyified record collector ass-covering, and archivist minutiae. Being fired up on punk rock as lads helped, and wallowing in real jukejoint blues in-person was the right thing to do. FHJ chased the burning adrenaline back towards the primal fire. What does it all mean? They ain't "this is important historically, and we're doing you a service by presenting it," it's "baby, get out the grill, cuz after we bust this out and free your ass-soul were havin' pork chops. Big ones. With BAR-B-QUE on the side. Extra hot sauce."
Brian: The harmonica's a lot more prominent here than on predecessor The Last Men on Earth, but it's more or less the same old thing. Same great songs. Same hot guitar playing. Same great vocals. More of the same when it's great is OK with me, but for some, too much of anything is a bad thing, right? On paper, you might have a case for such a supposition. However, words on a page ain't gonna make you dance, The Mystery Spot will. If this is important (and I'm guessing it is, or else you ain't much of a Five Horse Johnson fan), you won't be so worried about such intellectual proceedings, at least not while the music's playing.
Me: Pick to click: Fuck, man, I mean "Gin Clear" coulda been off of Aerosmith's Live Bootleg or J. Geils' Full House, "Ten-Cent Dynamite" or "Keep Your Prize" could slot on the recent Clutch, and "I Can't Shake It" might be a Peel session with Canned Heat. Some of the other stuff coulda been where Big Chief mighta gone if they'd went that way, and Tenderloin almost did. I'd pay an extra dollar to hear'm cover Mountain's "Mississippi Queen," Robin Trowers' "Day of the Eagle," or Green River's "Unwind." If anyone has a "Boogie 'Til You Puke" t-shirt, make sure ya wear it to see Five Horse Johnson.
Craig RegalaJune 11th, 2006www.lollipop.com
All Access Magazine
Along the banks of the Maumee River in Toledo, Ohio comes the sixth record from those blues based, booze induced hard rockers known as FIVE HORSE JOHNSON. Formed in 1995, these road warriors have played over 800 shows all over the world. Sharing the stage with the likes of Raging Slab, Big Sugar, Deep Purple, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Nebula, Robin Trower, Cheap Trick, Johnny Winter, Iggy Pop, Atomic Bitchwax, Bad Company, Queens Of The Stone Age, Nashville Pussy, Monster Magnet, Alabama Thunderpussy and Clutch. Speaking of Clutch, 5HJ has added Clutch's drummer J.P. Gaster to the mix, along with the original core of bassist Steve Smith, guitarist/vocals Brad Coffin and lead singer Eric Oblander, who by the way blows a mean ass harp."Mystery Spot" was produced by Roadsaw vocalist and Quitter drummer Craig Riggs. The CD is filled with powerful blues laced songs that are as tight as a brand new pack of Marlboros. The title track "Mystery Spot" is down right dirty and is drinking music at its finest. But the CD literally explodes, going off like "Ten Cent Dynamite" on the second track. It's a song about traveling on the Hard Road of life. Steve Smith's heavy bass drives "Call Me Down" and leads us into the acoustic slide intro to "...Of Ditch and Drowning Men", that kicks into overdrive like Blackfoot of old. The backing vocals give this a spiritual/gospel feel. More bass and drums kick off "Gin Clear", a bruising slab of concrete blues rock. It's not a coincidence that "Rolling Thunder" starts with a drum roll, then crashes like thunder in a storm of harp filled chaos. Theres a few songs about trains and a fast paced ballad called, "The Ballad Of Sister Ruth". You can hear the Howling Wolf influence on "I Can't Shake It". The closer is "Drag You There", a slow, dragged out harp infested down home blues song that is served up like breakfast after a night of heavy drinking. There is harp and damn good musicianship all over this CD. If Toledo, Ohio is the mystery spot, then get your asses out there to catch these guys or buy the CD and wait till these guys pass through your town like a powerful runaway freight train. Give it up for Five Horse Johnson.
Dedicated Rocker ProductionsMay 25th, 2006www.allaccessmagazine.com
All Music Guide
Not even a minor stroke could stop Five Horse Johnson from rockin' and, if anything, vocalist and harpist extraordinaire Eric Oblander's brush with the beyond only served to inspire the band's fifth album, 2006's The Mystery Spot, that much more. Also benefiting from Clutch drummer Jean Paul Gaster's imposing guest appearance throughout (hear him take over "Ten-Cent Dynamite" with his outro solo), the record showcases a noticeably reinvigorated 5HJ -- not really messing with their successful, rootsy hard rock formula, so much as tackling it with renewed appetite. Starting with the opening title track's aggressive 5/6 blues shuffle, where Oblander's raunchy vocal pays discreet homage to early, pre-Dada Captain Beefheart, and continuing through gritty stomps like "Feed that Train" and the energized "La Grange" groove of "I Can't Shake It," where his harmonica punctuates Brad Coffin's geeetar-grit with soaring wails. Then there's the evocatively named standout "Of Ditch Diggers and Drowning Men"; co-written with former Big Chief member Phil Durr (who also contributes second guitar), it is further fleshed out with slide guitars and organs for a laid-back, down-home sound the Black Crowes used to own the patent on. The remaining cuts do their above-mentioned comrades ample justice, without necessarily guaranteeing themselves a spot on future set-lists, but The Mystery Spot's overall consistency and reliable sonic qualities (bottom line: few bands pull this music off so well) still offers Five Horse Johnson fans plenty of reasons to celebrate their return.
Eduardo RivadaviaMay, 2006allmusic.com
Slinky, sleazy blues-and-booze rock from the Rust Belt of the USA, lumped in with the stoner rock crowd because there's really nowhere else for 'em to get lumped (at least not until you all wise up and go buy some TENDERLOIN records). Ohio's prodigal drunks get a lot more love in Europe than they do here at home, mainly because there's a pretty good bunch of people on that side of the pond who appreciate sweaty, warts-and-all rock and roll delivered with heart and spit and a whole lot of smoke-choked vigor.
The big news this time out is the enlistment of CLUTCH drummer Jean-Paul Gaster for the studio sessions. Where previous basher Mike Alonso was a solid heavy-hitter, Gaster's propulsive and funky assault really gives the band a kick in the ass. Right from the opening measure, the title track cooks with percussive funk, a hot, greasy energy, and a little tricky time signature you just can't picture 'em trying with any previous skinsman. And check out Gaster going off the hook at the end of the righteous rocker "Ten Cent Dynamite", the "hit single" in a perfect world.
Elsewhere, "I Can't Shake It" and "Drag You There" dig deep into the band's record collections and prove that they know the blues ?ă÷ these songs throb with a primal urgency and a raucous juke-joint abandon, even as they flirt with Detroit proto-punk and murder-ballad doom, respectively. "Of Ditch Diggers and Drowning Men" is a bit of a surprise, a plaintive ballad that'd do an Allman Brother proud, showcasing guitarist Brad Coffin's world-weary, rough-hewn vocals. This song is one where a few subtle production choices ?ă˘ a hint of Hammond organ here, a touch of backing vocals there ?ă÷ really adds a new dimension to the record, putting FIVE HORSE JOHNSON in a new league, really.
FIVE HORSE JOHNSON are one of those bands for whom record store bin-card labels are as ill-fitting and useless as a corset on a rhino. Focus on the bluesier riffs and the harmonica, and you'll miss the seething, sardonic anger of the vocals in songs like "Gin Clear" and the soulful revival stomp of "Ditch Digger". Call 'em "stoner" and you trivialize the gloriously sleazy slide-guitar sludge of "Rolling Thunder" and the furious MOTORHEAD-gone-Mississippi avalanche that is "Feed That Train". Like their pals CLUTCH and so many of the best underground rock and roll bands currently sweating out the poison for the faithful few, FIVE HORSE stack their plates with the choicest bits from the whole damn rock and roll buffet, beholden to no one style, mashing it all up and letting it all hang out.
"The Mystery Spot" is a damn fine album, one worthy of a lot more of your support than it's gonna get. But who ever said rock and roll was a winning game?
Keith BergmanMay 29th, 2006www.blabbermouth.net
The Cutting Edge
OhioĂs Five Horse Johnson are back at it with a fist full of Skynyrd meets Aerosmith blues. Granted, their version of the blues is stretched over ZZ Top muscle and PageĂs Zeppelin-like grease. This has got to be the fifth or sixth release for this corn-fed three piece, and by all accounts their best and most cohesive. Few bands have the knack for embracing a roots-driven vibe like these guys. Clutch and COC come to mind, but 5-Horse are right in there. Maybe itĂs the harp played over a straight-ahead rocker like ˘The Mystery Spot÷ or the massive bass riff in ˘Three Hearts÷ or even the catchy bumpity bump in ˘Ten Cent Dynamite.÷ Wherever they find their gin and whiskey, itĂs all consuming, completely raw in texture and very addicting.__
Fans of big hooks will find their fix in ˘Feed that Train,÷ ˘Keep your Prize÷ or ˘Call me Down.÷ ThatĂs where Brad Coffin finds his euphoria, belting out solid, dense chords with backwoods warmth and tone. And even though Eric OblanderĂs voice is still reminiscent of a young Lemmy (or Ted Nugent in ˘The Ballad Of Sister Ruth÷) he finds enough originality to claim his own. Clutch drummer, Jean Paul Gaster sits in on the skins bringing in a militant-like drum fill in ˘Rolling Thunder÷ and ˘Gin Clear.÷ He and bassist Steve Smith lock down one of the heaviest rhythm sections alive. Killer grooves and grinding guitar make this one of the best blues-rock records since LouisianaĂs Potliquor had their heyday in 1973. DonĂt forget to check out the cover and other stunning artwork by artist Mark Dancey.
Todd K. SmithMay 2nd, 2006www.thecutting-edge.net
Quite possibly "The Mystery Spot" is Five Horse Johnson's most mature album. It's not as heavy as their previous works perhaps, but more time has been spent on the songs. Their use of backing vocals has improved dramatically. They still in my opinion are more of a Classic Rock band than anything else. They have the broad sound of Mountain with some of the sweet licks of ZZ Top, and this time around they have done it better than ever before.
Ten-Cent Dynamite was an instant classic for me. It's heavy infectious groove and hooks catch you and it's hard to get to the next song without repeated listenings. Another strong cut was the bluesy "Feed That Train". The two songs are actually quite different which shows a lot of growth within the bands writing. The last two cuts on the album "Can't Shake It" and "Drag You There" are a couple more monsters that show this band still kicks as hard as they ever have.
Overall, another very strong release from the band as they continue to improve. I can only imagine their live shows turning into druken rages as this is the perfect music to party to for anyone who love Motorhead to Montgomery Gentry.
TorchApril 18th, 2006www.rockhardplace.com
Daredevil Magazine (Germany)
It?s always a pleasure for me when new material of Smallstone hits my mailbox and it turned out to a f**ing fest when I found the new Five Horse Johnson in the package. To be honest, you have to love this music. This bluessoaked Heavy-Rock blend always conjures a smile on my face. The thing I like about Five Horse Johnson that they?re always good for surprises and so the new album affords a lot of surprises. We all know that Five Horse Johnson has a huge musical horizon and you can hear on The Mystery Spot that the guys put in all the years and all the experience of making music...from awesome ballads to straight rockers... all with the blues-soaked Five Horse Johnson vibe... a great album and for sure on of my faves this year.
RBApril 17th, 2006www.daredevil.de
ZZ Top clutch-ing child molesters?
Dear readers, I must come clean. I can't be fully objective about this. Someone I know produced it. Someone I know used to be in this band. We almost rented a van from the label. But fuck it. I'll try.
It sounds like ZZ TOP / CLUTCH inspired boogie with the vocalist from THE CHILD MOLESTERS, who sounded a lot like CAPTAIN BEEFHEART (I believe some of the MOLESTERS played with the CAPTAIN and / or ZAPPA). Anyways, this sounds a lot like THE CHILD MOLESTERS if they had stopped trying to insult people and decided to just admit they liked ZZ TOP. Do I like it? Fuck yeah! A lot more than I thought I would. Now I feel lame for skipping their gigs. Seriously, I was always bummed out by the band name. It just spoke of dullsville stoner rock and this is just straight-up boogie. It's good boogie with none of that CANNED HEAT shit. Well, the HEAT was good with JOHN LEE HOOKER but sucked beyond that.
I can't say that I would last an entire show. I get bored easily. No matter how good the band is, they gotta entertain me. I want more than some dudes just jamming. I'm a jaded fuck, what can I say? But, I can tell you that I will pack this when I go out of town for good tunes to hear while riding along the asphalt. This is some serious "I hate everyone in this van and I just want to look out the window at the scenery and watch Americana pass me by" shit. Even if "The Mystery Spot" is bogus as bogus can be. I went to several of those motherfuckers as a kid and thought they were always weak as piss. Speaking of piss, this review is over.
Two Tub ManApril 14th, 2006http://www.peacedogman.com
Speaking of spots, I will always have a soft spot in my blackened heart for Five Horse Johnson, because they were the band onstage when I took my wife Stacey out on our first date. There they were, harmonica blowinĂ away, sweat, thunder, dirty badman blooze, the works. The perfect introduction to my world. That was 6 years ago, and IĂm happy to report, weĂre all still going strong. ˘The Mystery Spot÷ has all the shit you expect from Five Horse, only with a crystal sheen washing over it, like a pig farmer in his Sunday suit. Its got the chariot choogle, the wailing mouth organ, the gravelly whiskey howl, the kinda lyrics you want to start spouting off at your next drunken barfight (˘IĂm goinĂ off like 10 cent dynamite!÷) and the kind of propulsive greaseboogie rivvems that get you in that agitated state in the first place. ItĂs also got ClutchĂs drummer and most of Antler helping out here and there, which is sweet of Šem. NuthinĂ fancy, of course, but it sure does hit that mysterious spot just right.
KMApril 4th, 2006www.sleazegrinder.com
Five Horse Johnson are very bluesy with a healthy dose of classic and southern rock, and on their 6th album they just keep getting better at it. Add Clutch's Jean Paul Gaster on drums, and you've got a pretty badass album. The tunes really groove, and the vocals sound like they've been recorded through an old mic that's never been cleaned out, all gritty and beer soaked. It's a stompin', swingin' good time, get out the beer and twist one up. If you dig Clutch and Scissorfight, these guys are right up your alley.
WolfieApril 3rd, 2006www.absolutmetal.com
The boogie kings who populate Five Horse Johnson could be satisfied with simply recycling bluesy hard rock clich&eactue;s album after album. Instead, these Toledo bruisers actually progress from one record to another; as a result, The Mystery Spot is its best yet. Singer/harp mangler Eric Oblander adds a Captain Beefhearted snarl to his vocal repertoire; the band uses more overt blues elements ("Of Ditch Diggers and Drowning Men," "Drag You There") and expands into psychedelic territory ("Gin Clear," "Feed That Train") as well. The rhythm section is particularly supple here, remaining light on its feet despite the heavy vibe; guest drummer Jean Paul Gaster provides the same service for his day job in Clutch. Powerhouse rock for country blues rollers.
Michael TolandMarch 31st, 2006highbias.com
Hip and swingin' groovy, this is rock n roll the way God (or Satan) meant it to be. Big, fat hooks and grooves with some meaty chunk, huge, fist-swingin' attitude. I'm reminded of the irresistible energy of bands like Clutch, though Five Horse Johnson ain't some rip-off of Clutch. Oh, no, they're just livin' in the same doomy hood and, like Clutch, they know what the fuck they're doing. A big "Oh, hell, yeah" comes out of your mouth when this band shoots out of the gate. The instrumentals really crank out some large waves of rock surgings while the vocals dollop on their heady strength. Like good ol' boy Southern hard rock jammed into a bar full of pot smoke and raging testosterone ...
Kristofer UpjohnMarch 19th, 2006www.smnnews.com
Rock N Roll Damnation
There are times when all you need is just sweet, melodic music that soothes the savage beast within. And there are times when you need to let that savage beast roam free, living it up listening to riff-driven, gravel voiced, beer soaked rock and roll. And such for times of the beast Five Horse Johnson are the perfect band.
I first came across Five Horse Johnson via Emusic about 2002. I went on a holiday up north to Byron and had their album The No 6. Dance in the car and basically played it all the whole way to Byron, the week I was there and on the way back (I was newly single so played what I damned well wanted to). The No 6 Dance was a great album of sludgy, blues-rock heavy riffs stained in beer. Indeed, it is an album that goes perfect with a few ales. Reminds one of back in the days when ZZ Top stayed close to their blues and boogie roots.
The Mystery Spot is their latest ode to wild ways, wild women and alcohol. 2003Ăs The Last Men on Earth wasnĂt a bad album. The Mystery Spot however is a wondrous piece of rifforama that is up with The No 6. Dance.
The great thing about The Mystery Spot is the band opens up the sound a little more. Of Ditch Diggers and Drowning Men opens up with acoustic slide before going all heavy on us. Gin Clear lets the drums and bass do most of the driving with the guitar being atmospheric over the top. The stock four on the floor beat is a little looser as well. Indeed Call Me Down and the title track also flirt with white, funky beats. The drummer, J.P. Gaster, gets a lot on this album. He does the heavy stuff with aplomb and the not as heavy stuff but still heavy stuff with ease.
Of course experimenting with new sounds doesnĂt mean changing the sound. Eric OblanderĂs whiskey soaked vocals and Brad CoffinĂs heavily amped guitars still a central to the sonic palate. Which is a good thing. Real American rock seems to be a lost art. An art lost in a sea of over-emoting posers with little to say other than woe is me. Five Horse Johnson are bit like my favourite lads. They donĂt know much other than what you hear but they are trying to make sure it sounds as best it can.
This is a seriously good American band with a seriously good album. They may not breaking any new ground but the ground they hoe sure is fertile.
ShaunMarch 16th, 2006www.rocknrolldamnation.wordpress.com
Over the past 10 years Five Horse Johnson have created their own take on stoned-out, boozed-out blues metal. They view the blues with respect as a nasty, sensual genre, but one nevertheless capable of reinvention by musicians with excellent songwriting skills and a fine ear for melody. With the help of Clutch's skin beater John Paul Gaster on drums, they're produced IMO their most interesting album, if not their best.
Not that their previous drummer, Mike Alonso, was any slouch. His straightforward approach made 2003's 'Last Men on Earth' super-solid, with several tracks that ought to be staples of any Five Horse Johnson setlist. But nothing stays normal for long when members of Clutch are in the house. 'The Mystery Spot's' title track starts off as somewhat of an homage to the redoubtable Captain Beefheart at his bluesy best ca. 'Clear Spot,' They didn't call it The Magic Band for nuthin'! Next up is the quirky crowd-pleasing fave 'Ten-Cent Dynamite,' with a surprising drum outro. The centerpiece of the album is the amazing power ballad '...Of Ditch Diggers and Drowning Men,' surely one of their best tunes ever. The melody is impeccable, the feeling somehow transcendent, and the possibility of transubstantiation, -of converting musical notes into something like spirit - lurks around the corner. Anyway, its great. Of course it's the blues metal that makes 5HJ 5HJ, and it's everywhere, from the Gallery of Mites-esque 'Feed that Train' to the raunchy psycho blues of 'I Can't Shake It.'
I remember seeing this band a few years ago with Halfway to Gone. Tragically, the house was nearly empty, but my heart was full of love and admiration for these excellent players. In fact, I liked 'em live to the point that when I listened to their discs, even such acknowledged classics as 'No. 6 Dance,' they just seemed like sad imitations of the real thing, and I put them away. But now, with Brad Coffin's guitar, played with an admirable ability to distinguish when to cut loose and when to shut up, Steve Smith's rock-solid bass, and Coffin's and Eric Oblander's raunchy vocals back in action on 'The Mystery Spot,' they've piqued my interest once again. Quality will out, as they say. Gaster adds variety in a genre where it's difficult indeed for any band to distinguish themselves. Touchstones for cognoscenti would be ZZ Top, Beefheart ca. 1972, the late, great Swedish blues metal group Halfman, the Jersey trainwreck Gallery of Mites, and of course Clurtch. Have a drink on me!
Kevin McHughMarch 24th, 2006www.hellride.com
Most ninehertz readers are probably pretty familiar with Five Horse Johnson's brand of Southern tinged blues rock, following a couple of UK headline tours and last year's visit to these shores with Clutch. I've always digged their sound and on previous albums, songs like 'Mississippi King', 'Cry Rain' and 'Cherry Red' have had me thinking that Five Horse Johnson could just become my new favourite band. Unfortunately, previous efforts have failed to keep my attention for the duration and there have been too many tracks which, to me, are just making up the numbers.
Step up album number six, 'The Mystery Spot'.
The title track starts things off and it's not the typical storming opener of their previous albums but a more bluesy, subdued number with plenty of harmonica from singer Eric Oblander. Not the perfect start, but the first thing I notice is the drumming, and how well Clutch sticksman J.P. Gaster's laid back style fits in so well with the whole FHJ vibe. Next is a track (like many on this album) which may sound familiar to anyone who saw FHJ on the Clutch tour and it's the first standout track. 'Ten Cent Dynamite' starts with another cool bluesy off beat riff before kicking into a simple but effective chugging verse and catchy as hell chorus. The track then ends with a drum solo as if the rest of the band have failed to tell J.P. that the song has actually finished.
The pace is then picked up for 'Call Me Down', an altogether rockier number which leads us into my favourite song on the album, '... Of Ditch Diggers and Drowning Men'. This is the closest FHJ come to a ballad. It opens with the almost trademark slide acoustic guitar and has an awesome sing-a-long chorus. I challenge you not to nod your head... brilliant!
And that's not it. There's more to come. 'Gin Clear', '3 Hearts' and 'I Can't Shake It' are all worthy of a mention, but there really is not a bad song on this album.
Another thing to note about this album is that the production has been tightened up by bringing in Roadsaw/Antler frontman, Craig Riggs, in behind the desk. This, along with the guest collaborators on the album, help to make this a beefier, more rounded proposition.
If Five Horse Johnson have never been your thing, then this album probably won't do much to change your mind. But if you liked them before, you'll love this one. The formula's the same. They're just getting better at it.
MambaMarch 9th, 2006www.ninehertz.co.uk
If you feel a little dismayed that ˘The Mystery Spot,÷ the opening track to the album of the same name, is a little lackluster - donĂt worry. The next song, ˘Ten Cent Dynamite,÷ says just about everything that needs to be said, and from that point on, The Mystery Spot is another awesome slab of blues and booze rock from OhioĂs Five Horse Johnson.
Over a foundation laid by ClutchĂs JP Gaster, the band (guitarist/vocalist Brad Coffin, bassist Steve Smith, and frontman/harpist Eric Oblander) dives headfirst into one of those swaggering, absolutely badass songs that they excel at. ˘Ten Cent Dynamite÷ is simple and catchy, the way all great Five Horse Johnson songs are (and as an added bonus, Gaster cuts loose at the end of the song).
There are some other kickinĂ barnburners on The Mystery Spot, like ˘Feed That Train÷ and ˘The Ballad of Sister Ruth,÷ as the band knows a good groove deserves a mean stomp. Two other tracks that stand out are ˘ÓOf Ditchdiggers and Drowning Man÷ and ˘Drag You There.÷ The former is an anthemic ballad type, although it thankfully skips any melodrama. The latter, the album closer, is one of those songs where Oblander cuts loose on the harp when not growling out some sinister lines.
Craig RiggsĂ production gives The Mystery Spot an earthier, grittier sound. The album sounds lived in and rough around the edges. ItĂs a fitting sound for their music, as is the addition of Gaster on drums. He really kicks the songs up a notch with his drumming.
After ten years, six albums, and one stroke, Five Horse Johnson is showing no sign of slowing down. The Mystery Spot may not be perfect (their perfect album is still No. 6 Dance), but that doesnĂt stop it from being a fantastic album. Go get your drinkinĂ hat and dancinĂ shoes and boogie down with Five Horse Johnson.
John PegoraroMarch 3rd, 2006www.stonerrock.com