This is a toughy. Brad Hooper’s new disc is a 5-song EP of new material attached to a live set of 14 tunes from Tucker’s Pub in Norway, Maine. The cover of the disc says “Live” though, which indicates that it isn’t actually live. It sounds live, so I don’t understand the quotations.
Quotations are not what make this a difficult record to review though; it’s the fact that it’s two records in one. The first is a totally listenable (if completely dated) little EP with full arrangements and quality production. The other is the live (or “live”?) set with Hooper playing acoustically for the patrons of Tucker’s. This one, due to the instrumentation and the five tracks of fully realized tunes that came before it, is a bit of a slog. Even though you can hear Hooper winning over the crowd and proving that he can sing as well in person as he can on record, the playback value is minimal.
As far as the 5-song EP goes, the disc opens with “Sinkin’ Kinda Feelin’” which sounds like Clapton or Paul Weller but could also be the soundtrack to some softcore porn. I know, that’s completely unnecessary but once I had the idea in my head, I couldn’t get it out. “Thank God for the Blues” is even more Weller-y and also a bit like something Pete Townshend probably wishes he could still write. “Morgan (The Dessert Girl)” keeps things moving along in a similar vein with a beat big enough to groove to and some quality changes (especially in the bridge). While I question finishing off a 5-song record with back-to-back ballads, “Jamie’s Dive” is a stellar recording and “The Poet” a fine send-off.
So if you’re into pretty straight forward blues rock, the EP is something I will recommend, but I don’t understand the tacking on of the live set (maybe offer it as a free download or something?). It really turns a record that comes in, does its job, and gets out into a chore. And I can’t give a thumbs down, because it’s unfair to the work on the EP. See what I mean, a toughy.
Take a listen to Brad Hooper right here.