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Blues Traveler
Straight On Till Morning
by Janiss Garza
Launch, National
Nov, 1996

It took Blues Traveler four albums and a lot of touring to achieve widespread renown and multi-platinum status. Straight On Till Morning, the New York quartet's first studio album in nearly three years, plays up this hard-working band's willingness to grow and diversify.

While 1994's four showed the poppier side of Blues Traveler's infectious blues- and folk-tinged rock, many of the songs here give voice to the band's earthiness. The Southern-style "Carolina Blues" and "Make My Way," with its backup singers, add an edginess to the group's white-boy blues, and "Great Big World" gives grit to its boogie. The guys get a bit fancy here, too; there's a string section on the epic ballad "Yours" - a glossy touch that surprisingly sounds quite comfortable next to singer John Popper's harmonica.

But even more important than the album's versatility is its spontaneity. No matter where the band goes musically, from the fast-paced grooves of "Felicia" and "Last Night I Dreamed" to the softer rhythms of "Canadian Rose," nothing ever sounds planned or pre-fabricated. Even though the group spent more time preparing for this album than they have on any previous recording, there's a vitality to every jam that makes it sound like it's being played for the very first time. That's the magic behind this band's chemistry - the musicianship is tight, but the feel is wonderfully loose.

The real story behind Straight On Till Morning can be found in its title. Blues Traveler made its career on the road, and it has created a batch of songs that not only sound great coming out of a stereo, but are guaranteed to kick ass live.