Veteran Missoula guitarist and bluesmeister Mike Bader gets off to a fine start here with his first album in six years. The 11 Bader-penned tunes feature stalwarts Caleb Van Gelder on drums, Stuart Garney on bass, and Josh Farmer on keys, and the fellas add backing vocals to Bader’s lead singing, as well.
Bader, who picked up his love for the blues growing up in eastern Iowa near the Mississippi River, infuses his compositions with a fiercely protective love of the land, among other passions. He’s spent much of his time avidly advocating for the protection of pristine places, and it rubs off in his music.
For example, the title number, “Worldwide Blues,” has chunky, throaty guitar from the bluesman, wherein he bemoans the state of Mother Earth at the hands of mankind’s excesses. The tune is funky and crisp, Garney gets to jam a bit on the bass, and Bader lays down some trademark meaty guitar.
On “Music’s Your Best Friend,” he extols the universality of the aural medium; the piece has a cool chord progression and some struttin’ rhythm.
“A Stranger to Love” is funky and slow-rockin’, with rappin’ drums and guitar licks, jazzy and melodic; Farmer adds tasty keyboard work. Bader growls kudos to “Annabelle,” channeling Chuck Berry on the flat notes during this love song to a friend’s old Chevy.
Bader shows off his slide chops in “Midnite Trane,” a sad and atmospheric ballad. “Steamboat Gambler” is swampy and thick with hints of Creedence Clearwater; “Spicy Lady” continues the geographic trip to Cajunville, with its terrific hip-shakin’ rhythm and fiddlin’ by guest artist Ellie Nuno. Van Gelder shines on this one, with his tasteful and understated percussion.
“Peace Will Come Again” starts out thoughtfully with a quiet and sweet Bader guitar solo, and his growly pipes on the simple refrain. It proceeds to get snappy and up-tempo, and clapping ensues, while Bader shows off some George Benson-esque scatting to the guitar riff. Some hot lead fretwork on the upbeat “Find Your Own Voice” complements the song’s message in fine fashion.
“Bull Trout Blues” is a hoot. Bader elaborates humorously on the need to protect watery habitats (“They mistook me for a brook trout, and they won’t cut me loose” … “My spots are yellow and my tail is square, there ain’t very much of us and that ain’t fair” ). He proceeds to replace “brook trout” with other species in the chorus, but the lesson remains the same.
Bader finds innovative ways to work his passions into his music, which all artists strive to do. Fine production work rounds out the effort. Visit reverbnation.com/mikebaderbearjam.
– Mariss McTucker