Hailing from western Pennsylvania, not exactly a blues hotbed, comes vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Jeff Fetterman, a self-taught bluesman, with his fourth album and one that may break his name out there beyond the regional success he’s had. Fetterman has placed highly in IBC in both 2017 and 2018 and won Rock Erie awards but on this effort, Southern Son, Fetterman followed the path of many aspiring blues musicians by heading to Kid Andersen’s Greaseland Studios in the Bay Area. Andersen plays guitar, keyboards and contribute backing vocals to Fetterman’s quartet and brought in a three piece horn section that graces several tunes. Andersen produced, recorded, mixed, and mastered the album.
The album kicks off with blazing, relatively standard blues riffing on “I Don’t Want To” and “49/61” but finds a real sweet spot with the soulful ballad “Memphis Sky,” imbued with Fetterman’s emotive vocals and tasteful guitar playing. Excepting “All Along the Watchtower” these are all Fetterman originals. “Goin’ to Nashville” is a hybrid of Chicago blues shuffle riffs with a touch of country. Fetterman shows his slow blues influence of Steve Ray Vaughan (thinking “Tin Pan Alley”) on “Living with the Blues.” With his gritty and authentic vocals, Fetterman is best on these slow burners. The punchy “Ain’t Got You” follows, another basic structured blues tune.
“Feels Like Rain” is a Fetterman original, not the classic, oft covered John Hiatt tune of the same name. Instead of a yearning love song, Fetterman’s is a dark reflection on a breakup. “Tell Me Baby” is another danceable shuffle, a takeoff of sorts of “Devil With the Blue Dress On.” It too has an SRV feel. “Blues for Charlie” is an homage to his father, written about with dripping emotion in the liners. He closes that passage this way, “I miss my old man. I miss his strength, his complaining, his existence. He visits me often in my dreams.” Fetterman, as you’d expect plays a slow, burning passionate guitar While Andersen supports on the B3. It’s the other key standout track along with “Memphis Sky.”
“All Along the Watchtower” reveals some strong guitar but stays in the vein of Hendrix’s version. The CD also has two bonus tracks, the aptly named “Voodoo Funk’” and the organ-driven “Southside Blue,” both instrumentals. The latter gives way to another searing guitar solo from Fetterman who shows plenty of chops vocally and with his axe to join the ranks of blues rockers who we can count on for strong efforts going forward.
- Jim Hynes