Proclaimed “a staple of the Midwest’s band scene” and “a festival favorite” by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in 2012, Altered Five’s delectable brew of blues and soul is now quickly gaining national attention. The group released its highly anticipated third album, produced and mixed by Grammy winner Tom Hambridge (Buddy Guy, Susan Tedeschi, James Cotton, etc.), in October, 2014. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, frontman Jeff Taylor’s voice is “gloriously gritty.” The Shepherd Express simply states he sounds like “a voice from Stax/Volt 45s.” Altered Five’s sophomore album, Gotta Earn It, reached #15 at the iTunes blues store, and the band won “Blues Artist of the Year” at the 34th annual WAMI Award Show.
From day one, Altered Five dared to be different. The quintet formed in 2002 and quickly gained a reputation for its inventive arrangements and distinctive sound. Isthmus magazine called the band “a rising blues unit” and OnMilwaukee.com declared, “The group delivers the element of surprise.”
Within a few years, Altered Five caught the ear of Cold Wind Records and, in 2008, signed a recording contract with the Minneapolis blues label. The debut album featured the band’s penchant for putting an earthy spin on numbers; the aptly titled Bluesified included roadhouse versions of ten popular songs. The group performed live on three television morning shows and honed its sound playing regular club, festival, and concert dates.
In the ensuing years, Altered Five turned its attention to recording and performing its own material, and the 2012 release of Gotta Earn It drew rave
reviews. Barrelhouse Blues called it “a great and powerful recording,” Downbeat commended its “solid songs,” Living Blues called the band “a tight, unified talent” and Big City Rhythm & Blues called A5 “Hands down, one of the best newer blues/R&B bands.”
The new album, entitled Cryin’ Mercy, delivers the next chapter in Altered Five’s musical odyssey. The 11-song set is a fierce collection of original, contemporary blues fused with vintage soul, and the debut release for OmniVibe Records. With Hambridge at the helm, the band hits on all cylinders. “JT” Taylor’s powerful voice anchors the sound and drives home the message in songs like the roaring opener “Demon Woman”; the stone-cold blues of “Move House,” the vivacious shuffle “I’m in Deep,” the soul-drenched ballad “Find My Wings,” and sassy ”Counterfeit Lover.” The rhythm section of drummer Scott Schroedl and bassist Mark Solveson grooves hard and enjoys telepathic interaction with keyboardist Ray Tevich and guitarist Jeff Schroedl. Downbeat raves that Schroedl’s “high-wire guitar reaches the high bar of mixed invention and fluidity.”
It’s been said that “the blues is a feeling,” so when the Minneapolis Star Tribune states that the band is a “righteous blast,” you know they play it right.
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