When a band places a bottle of Makers Mark rather prominently in one of their promotional photos and advertises themselves as a blues band, chances are, you’ll get no big surprises when it comes to the kind of sounds they make. For Dr Chris & The Redeemers, the big twist comes from their location. This band comes well versed in the Texas blues, but deliver their rootsy grooves and Stevie Ray Vaughan inflected riffs from the heart of Adelaide. In terms of all round authenticity, though, they hit everything absolutely square on. Their debut release ‘Devil In The Back Seat’ is a superb piece of blues, which doesn’t so much present itself like the sound of 2021, but a brilliant throwback to 1990.
The title cut wastes no time in settling into a great and steady rhythm. The strong melodies and reverbed guitar parts are drawn straight from the likes of SRV but there’s an easy soulfulness, too, that hints at Robert Cray, whilst their commitment to the style in hand demonstrates plenty of toughness, sounding like a more melodic take on material by the Blindside Blues Band. The fat toned guitar work is great throughout, but in many ways, it’s Dr. Chris Klinger’s vocals that leave the stronger impression. He tackles each line of his performance with a genuine confidence, but there’s also plenty of heart; voice has a slight world weariness that really gives the chorus character as he warns that a devil in the backseat is “gonna wanna drive”. As a metaphor for mental health struggles – even if that weren’t the intention – this is a brilliant hook. As for the rest of the band, there are no weak links here. Drummer Steve Aitken holds a firm rhythm throughout and he’s brilliantly complimented by Dave Blythe’s thudding bass. On first listen, rhythm guitarist Mark Munchenberg doesn’t seem like so much of a key player, but his clean toned chops hold everything together in classic style. Without him, The Redeemers could make it as a tough power trio, but his shiny, melodic chords are pretty much essential in giving this its authentically retro soul/blues sound.
Despite a clichéd title, ‘Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is’ is actually be the stronger of the two tracks. Pushing the rhythm section further to the fore, the number serves up a hearty stomp – big on bass drum and thudding basslines – and over the lurching groove, Chris churns out dirty guitar lines that add a roughness to the expected bluesy tones. Between the verses, he isn’t shy in dropping some great lead work, but always seems very mindful that this is a collaborative band project and not just the Dr Chris show. Moving through the track, the listener is able to get a great sense of what this band would sound like in the live setting, with a great drum sound taking on a dominant roll and the whole band really latching onto a solid rhythm. In terms of extra flourish, the first featured solo is short, but presents some neat sounds that occasionally appear to echo Zeppelin’s reworking of ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’, but the real interest comes with the second break, where Chris embarks on a lengthy tour de force of vibrato fuelled notes, each one highlighting his Texan inflected grubbiness. Although this is, perhaps, more blues rock than purist blues, this number certainly showcases a band with a reasonable amount of muscle.
With this digital double whammy, Dr Chris and his cohorts make strong roads into the beginning of a career. Their approach may be well worn, but their delivery is strong and their talents are without question. In terms of acting as a taster for a planned full length album, things couldn’t really have worked out any better, and for those who love their blues with a slightly rocky edge, ‘Devil In The Backseat’ is guaranteed to more than entertain.