Rhythm & Views

Tom Walbank and the Tucson Ambassadors

It seems unlikely that Tucson would be home to one established, skilled and respected white blues player in the helmeted form of Bob Log III; it's goddamn unnatural for this sunbleached wasteland to house two of them. Even stranger is that the arriviste, Tom Walbank, is from Devon, England, and with his new mustache, could pass for Dick Van Dyke's chimneysweep from Mary Poppins.

While the success that has met Bob Log III has so far eluded Mr. Walbank, smart money says it's only a matter of time. His official debut, Jinx Blues, is true to the music's unpolished spirit. Recorded mostly with ambient mic-ing in his home and featuring a mix of originals and covers, the album is like a time-warped Alan Lomax field recording, with authenticity intact.

Walbank turned to the blues at age 15 and has since honed the requisite skills with aplomb--he's an adept boogie guitar player (as evidenced on "Faster, TomCat! Kill! Kill!") and can effortlessly affect the throaty vocal style of greats like John Lee Hooker (covering Hooker's "Hoojoo Boogie"). Plus, he blows the meanest harmonica this side of Senatobia, Mississippi. Uh, game, set, and match ... (well, then you try relating blues and the British and see what you come up with).

On Jinx Blues, the best cuts aren't the cover songs; on "Can't Seem to Track You Down," Walbank finds a way to be original within the formalist trappings of the genre. "You got me runnin' round town like a pinball," Walbank laments, over music that seems to predate electricity.

Jinx Blues is worth your time even if blues isn't your "cup of tea with scones."

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