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Bryan Dean Trio: Sobriety Checkpoint (Self-released) 

While Bryan Dean has been playing around for a while, it's only within the last couple of years that he's begun to get the fame he deserves. His second release should add to his growing legend.

While much of this album is crisp, in-your-face blues, there is a lot of wit and whimsy throughout. Although the title track is driven by its funky edge, it's a lyrical crackup. Here, Dean paints a vivid picture of being on the road and in possession of contraband. The capper comes when Danny Krieger, joining in as guest policeman, slips in some blistering guitar licks around his "ID and registration" and "get out of the car" routine.

Other tunes that accentuate this lighter side of the blues include "My Dog Knows" and "Brand New Junk." But don't let this approach fool you: Dean lays down some serious riffs with a guitar that wails and moans, and his no-nonsense vocals lead you to believe he's seen a lot of shit go down.

Dean also stays away from the familiar 12-bar slow blues and shuffles. This allows his tunes to stand out. "Hard to Believe" is perhaps the best example of how he's become more adept at this.

This collection ends with an exquisite bonus track, "Piece of You," dedicated to his late mom. The album also brings out the best in drummer Ralph Gilmore and bassist Koko Matsumoto.

More by Jim Lipson

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