“The Galt Line has developed an act geared toward audiences looking for a good time. Combining classic dance styles with a wry lyrical sensibility and wall-shaking energy, The Galt Line is less interested in moving people and more interested in getting people moving.” Such is how Frederick’s The Galt Line describes The Galt Line on The Galt Line’s very own website.
It’s not entirely inaccurate. The energy displayed on the duo’s recent self-titled 12-song effort is without question prevalent within their blend of booze-soaked, acoustic/electric blues.
The getting people moving thing, however, is a bit more tricky. There’s only so much you can do with a powerful female vocal gyrating over stove-top-hot guitar licks before the dancers want a different groove to which they can happily move. That’s not a criticism anymore than it’s a mere observation — an observation that unfortunately makes the bulk of these tracks blend together so much that the sounds begin to appear as one, big wall of monotonous music despite the sheer talent that clearly lies underneath a lot of the performances at hand.
Take “Trouble” and “The Worm,” for instance. The differences between the two tracks are so minimal that they become increasingly nonexistent with each listen. It isn’t until each song’s bridge that the contrast becomes apparent — the former’s middle section highlights an inspired electric guitar solo while the latter features much of the same, though acoustically. Outside of that, the feel, tone and approach are all nearly identical.
The formula isn’t a particularly bad one — it’s just that it can become a particularly grating one. The whole in-your-face blues rock duo thing will forever be fun to come across, and maybe even more impressive in this instance is how well these guys pull off the fundamentals of it. Blythe Crawford’s deep and eccentric crooning is certainly some of the most soulful and hard-hitting female vocals around, especially in this setting, and Willie Gammell’s exceptional guitar work is a treat to dissect, his lightning-quick finger work and clean runs consistently rising above the rest of what turns out to be an otherwise pedestrian collection.
But even with all that said, and even with the very real ability that both artists occasionally display, it’s impossible to not utter the following statement: Come on guys … can’t you please just do SOMETHING else?!
“Barfly Betty” tries as it slows the set down, but the insistence on using what sounds like a tambourine as a tempo-setter takes away from what could have been a deliciously impassioned faux-ballad. “Chopo,” the album’s final track, also has a go at mixing it up by erring on the side of Mexican-influenced pop rather than the normal pop blues found elsewhere here, but by the time any listener actually gets to that point in the collection, Gammell’s guitar tones and Crawford’s utterances are played out, dismissed because of how one-dimensional they too often appear throughout the previous 11 songs.
Still, it would be unfair to claim that the record is devoid of highlights. “Glass of Scotch” is the moment when these two don’t overdo it on vermouth when concocting their Manhattans. It’s the prototype for what this kind of stuff should be: fiery, sloppy and lyrically drunk. “Curtis Turner” simmers like a filled tea kettle and wisely decides to never quite overflow into the mess it wants to become. And “Take Me Home” is rockabilly for the 21st century, Gammel’s tasteful noodling combining with Crawford’s growl to create the atmosphere of a juke joint somewhere in 1950s Tennessee.
Actually, it’s the only time throughout all of “The Galt Line” that these two come close to actually getting people moving. Unfortunately for this 12-song set, however, the lack of a desire to move beyond this lone aesthetic with their artistry takes a pretty good album and makes it a borderline forgettable collection, if for no other reason than its intellectual apathy. With any luck, by the time Crawford and Gammel eventually decide to sit down for a follow-up, they’ll understand how essential it can be to embrace the notion of actually moving people.
Only then could the sum of this two-piece pop blues outfit be better than its singular parts.
** 2 1/2 STARS OUT OF 4 **