Friday, October 14, 2016

The Good for Nothin’ Band - Maniac World

After a recent history of playing two hundred plus live shows in the New Orleans area, The Good for Nothin’ Band has their act honed to perfection. Their first studio release entitled Maniac World features ten songs that are a cross-section of American music, relying primarily on the jazz and blues idioms, but they have a freewheeling fluency that reaches far beyond some stupefying imitation without spark or personality. The band is a five piece with a trombonist and trumpet player and every instrument in this band is charged with the business of accentuating melody and listening to the surrounding players. The Good for Nothin’ Band is a group of exceptional musicians, but they work together as one unit and never fail serving the song. 

It begins beautifully with “Fishin’ for Stars”. The lyrical imagery is evocative without drawing too much attention to itself and the word choice is acutely tuned to the percussive needs of the track. The slightly languid, mid-tempo sway benefit greatly from Brendan Bull’s drumming. Vocalist Jon Roniger shines brightly on the album’s second song “DNA” which rides a spot-on metaphor for everything its worth and draws out a nearly raucous vocal from Roniger. The smart humor heard through the first two songs comes out in a much bigger way on the album’s third song “Falling from Trees”, but even here, the band never lays on the laughs with a dragline. This songwriting hits all of the right musical notes, overplays, and finds it lyrical measure in observing the peccadilloes of lives and human characters. The lyrics throughout Maniac World have a particular shine for character, but they capture an unique narrative voice that helps the outfit stand out.  

Blues comes into play on the album’s title song. There are plenty of hints on the album’s first quarter that the band would excel if they turned to this form and their inevitable first effort in that vein doesn’t disappoint. “It Is What It Is” packs an energetic buzz and really makes an impact with its stripped down shuffle tempo and the horns practically scat sing throughout the track. It’s difficult to adequately sum up just how much the trombone and trumpet bring to the band’s sound, but this song is a perfect illustration of its impact in full effect. The Good for Nothin’ Band gets a small chance to shine instrumentally on the song “Romeo in Rags”. It’s a much cleaner blues than before, more mournful, and the acoustic framework has a slow moving grace that’s handled quite tastefully. “Snowing in New Orleans” is a showcase of sorts for drummer Brendan Bull and the multiple percussion voices he makes use of keep this track popping from the first bar onward. The energy dissipates on the album’s final song. “One Last Call” is the best of all possible endings for this release and Roniger throws himself wholeheartedly into the album’s last smiling, but slightly woozy vocal.  

Maniac World could have contented itself with hitting some customary marks at an acceptable professional level and the band would have a viable product to peddle at their live shows. Instead, the five pieces show themselves to be serious musical artists with surprisingly broad literary skills and an absolute command over the fundamentals of their musical genre.

9 out of 10 stars 

William Elgin III

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