KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

Satur-debut – BLUES TRAVELER “BLUES TRAVELER”

It’s been three decades since Blues Traveler’s eponymous 1990 debut was released, introducing us to the harmonica-shredding talents of John Popper. Not only is he the Jimi Hendrix or Eddie Van Halen of his instrument, but also their lead singer who writes or co-writes all of their songs. His bandmates are no slouches either, which is why their albums are so enjoyable and not merely showcases for Popper. There are now more than a dozen studio albums in their discography (which I followed until the early 2000’s), yet the debut and its follow-up are the ones I return to most frequently. See below for the assessment I wrote about Blues Traveler in the fifth Great Out Of The Gate post in 2015.

For more information on this series, please read the opening paragraph of the first post, which featured the debut album from Led Zeppelin.

 

 

From GREAT OUT OF THE GATE Part 5:

Blues Traveler released four albums before hitting the big time in 1994 but everything that eventually made them into a multi-platinum band was in place on their self-titled debut. The New Jersey-based group is lumped in with the jam-band scene, yet their songwriting abilities and the game-changing harmonica talents of then-humongous frontman John Popper were the two key reasons they stood out from the pack and made such a strong impression on me. I bought this CD with no expectations or knowledge about the band shortly after it was released, basing my purchase on someone’s recommendation, but it was a road trip with two of my closest friends that summer which helped me to fully appreciate the scope of their talents. Popper is the obvious focal point but guitarist Chan Kinchla, bassist Bobby Sheehan and drummer Brendan Hill are all top-notch players who stamp their personalities all over these songs. They grab your attention right from the start with “But Anyway,” the tight, nuanced playing setting the stage for Popper’s rapid-fire vocal delivery and jaw-dropping harp work. “Mulling It Over,” “Dropping Some NYC” and “Gina” continue that sonic assault, culminating in the mid-album epic, “Crystal Flame,” which has long been my favorite Blues Traveler song. They also display a lightness of touch on the lovely “100 Years” and the slow blues of “Warmer Days” (both featuring a then-unknown Joan Osborne on backing vocals). I hadn’t played this album in several years before giving it a spin last week and I enjoyed it as much as I did back in 1990.

 

Who else still loves this record 30 years later? If you’ve never heard them or your only exposure came via their multi-platinum 1994 album Four and its radio hits, I urge you to listen to the timeless music here. I hope you like it as much as I do.

25 comments on “Satur-debut – BLUES TRAVELER “BLUES TRAVELER”

  1. christiansmusicmusings
    February 29, 2020

    These tunes sound pretty awesome, Rich! While I’ve known the name Blues Traveler since their big 1994 hit Run-Around and always found that tune enjoyable, I never actually explored them. Nice to see they remain active, with Popper, Kinchia and Hill still being part of the line-up!

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    • Hi Christian. I’m glad you’re digging the tunes from this album. They really kicked ass on their first several records. I was pleased that they finally had huge commercial success in the mid-’90s, even though the album with “Run Around” was pretty bland compared to what came before it. Sometimes that’s what you need to do in order to get mass appeal…unfortunately.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jim S.
    February 29, 2020

    Really like these guys. They’ve never not in my consciousness to some extent because I always hear them on the radio. Plus they’re currently on some really dumb TV commercial, almost cringe-worthy. But I guess it pays the bills.

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    • I rarely listen to the radio and when I have I can’t remember the last time I heard Blues Traveler. I think fans & radio programmers have overlooked them, and certainly their kick-ass early albums, for too long. That’s a shame when they have an immense talent like John Popper.

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      • Jim S.
        March 2, 2020

        Oh, I hear them. I listen mostly to satellite radio but on the occasion that I’m stuck in the car with terrestrial I hear them.

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      • I’m happy to hear that. Hopefully it’s more than hits like “Run Around” and “Hook.”

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      • Jim S.
        March 2, 2020

        It is! It’s songs like, er, “Run Around” and “Hook.” 🙂 Well, better than nothing I guess.

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      • Haha. Radio programmers are so predictable.

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      • Jim S.
        March 2, 2020

        I wouldn’t be surprised at all if computers program these stations.

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      • True. But who’s programming the computers? Computers with terrible taste in music programming music for people with terrible taste in music. We’re all doomed. Haha.

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      • Jim S.
        March 2, 2020

        But enough about disco…

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      • At least disco had real musicians playing real instruments. A few decades later and we’re all clamoring for that kind of authenticity.

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      • Jim S.
        March 2, 2020

        Heh! The dark ages of music.

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      • Of course there’s always great music being created. The problem now is it’s nearly impossible to find in the mainstream, and you have to do a lot of work to find it. Oh, and many of the most talented & creative musicians can’t make a living at it. So yeah…dark ages.

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      • Jim S.
        March 2, 2020

        Oh, no. Music is ok. It’s just hard to find it. I was referring the era of disco. Hated it then and now I don’t care who was playing it.

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      • Oh, now I got it. I hated disco at the time but I really enjoy a lot of it now. If I’m at a wedding I’ll actually get up and “dance” when they play ’70s disco, but once the computer-generated dance music comes on I sit down. There’s no groove when the rhythm sounds like a metronome.

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      • Jim S.
        March 2, 2020

        It’s all yours, man, it’s all yours. Actually, I kinda don’t even really care anymore. It was a white-hot hate back in the day but I’m not still worried about it. And I no longer go to weddings so I can easily avoid it. 😂

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      • Jim S.
        March 2, 2020

        Women seem to really go nuts for disco. At the last wedding reception I was forced to go to, even if they were waiting in line for food, literally as soon as that “music” came on they would start boogieing and singing to it. Don’t get me wrong – I like women. They like me too. Why, I’ve lost track of the number of women who have said, “I like you as a friend, Jim.” 🙂

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      • Maybe if you came around to the pleasures of disco (yes, there are some) those women would see you as more than a friend. For me there’s a fine line between funk, Philly soul and the best of the disco era. I certainly prefer the two former genres but artists like Barry White, Chic and Earth, Wind & Fire (one their disco hits) made some killer dance grooves that have a lot of cool musical things going on. Hmm, how did we get from Blues Traveler to disco?

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      • Jim S.
        March 3, 2020

        I actually did a post on Earth, Wind and Fire. They may have done a disco tune hear or there but I cannot equate them with KC and the Sunshine Band. As to the ladies, well, I was too busy sulking in my rock and roll cave. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jim S.
        March 3, 2020

        PS. If you’re trying to get me to agree that disco is good music, suggest giving up now. Minus the odd tune here or there, that will never ever happen.

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      • I just think putting the “disco” label on certain artists keeps you from hearing some really cool music and musicianship, but who am I to tell you what to like? We all have our musical kryptonite and disco is yours. That doesn’t make us any less “super.” 😀

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      • Jim S.
        March 4, 2020

        There are a handful of decent songs, some from rock artists, some from disco artists. But yeah, as a genre, it’s bankrupt. As CB will often say, too many other places to spend my time. And hey, keep your white suit pressed and ready to go. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. stephen1001
    March 1, 2020

    I typically think of ‘shredding’ as a metal guitar description – but it’s more than apt for his harmonica work too!

    Like

    • There’s no doubt that Mr. Popper is a shredder of the highest order. I didn’t even realize that was a harmonica the first time I heard the album, and when that finally dawned on me my jaw hit the floor.

      Liked by 1 person

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