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Every review and article of this mighty Minneapolis quartet mentions their one-of-a-kind approach to making music: in order to achieve pinpoint 4/4 time on all their tunes, each one of their four members simultaneously bangs on a bass drum while playing his instrument. (By writing in this limited way, former guitarist James Gould said in a 2013 Cause A Scene interview, it “forces you to be more creative.”) But their playing is so seamless and in-sync, that if you were listening to their beefy, blasting, beer barrel blues/country/R&B-infused rock with your eyes closed, you wouldn’t assume anything was amiss. Heck, it didn’t stop me from calling their 2011 debut LP 4 × 4 “explosive, invigorating, and tightly-played” in issue 68, or TV’s A&E Network from choosing that album’s blue collar anthem “Workin’ Man Zombie” to replace ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man” as a theme song for its popular (and polemic) Duck Dynasty.
On this third LP, following 2013’s Spirit of Minneapolis, the group attains another atypical (and ambitious) accomplishment that I can’t recall having seen done before: they’ve produced an official YouTube video for all twelve of their album’s songs! (That makes Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen look like slackers for managing a meager seven singles apiece on Thriller and Born in the U.S.A., respectively.) If anything, the plethora of promotion allows old followers and new fans to witness the band letting its hair down and having a good time, whether they’re eyeballing a dashing debutante at a backyard barbeque on the fuzzy-guitared “Fancy,” dressing in drag for a mock beauty pageant on the rockabilly-inspired “Ms. Behave,” riding bikes with their buddies on the call-to-arms party anthem “All My Friends,” acting like clowns (literally) in the celebratory “Joy,” or drenching each other with water pistols on the belting “Don’t Tell Me.”
Once again, their ace in the hole is the diaphragm-demolishing, gullet-grating, whiskey-wolfing bellower Gabriel Douglas, who emotes like an authentic-sounding embodiment of Howlin’ Wolf, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis, on songs like the souped-up “Lake Street Shuffle,” stomping “Smokin’,” and shuffling “Pipeline.” Douglas even outshines John Cougar Mellencamp on the nostalgic nod to his own suburban stomping grounds, “Small Towns.” Perhaps admirers of pretty, polished, and programmed pop music will take a pass on this. But if you’re in the mood for some matter-of-fact, muscular, “meat-and-potatoes”-style blues-rock, All In is akin to seeing a show at all-you-can-eat ribs and rotgut-shot night at your local roadhouse. (4otf.com)
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