For 15 years, Altered Five Blues Band has been winning audiences with a swaggering stomp of bruising, barrelhouse grit. According to Downbeat magazine, frontman Jeff Taylor “sings powerfully” and “Jeff Schroedl’s high-wire guitar reaches the high bar of mixed invention and fluidity.” Blues Bytes magazine declares the group features “the funkiest rhythm section outside of Memphis.” For its fourth album, Charmed & Dangerous, the Milwaukee-based quintet joins forces with Blind Pig Records, one of the world’s premier blues labels. Produced by multi-Grammy-winner Tom Hambridge (Buddy Guy, Susan Tedeschi, James Cotton, etc.), and featuring guests on harmonica and backing vocals, the 13 tracks of original, contemporary blues prove worthy of the recent groundswell of acclaim. The group’s third album, Cryin’ Mercy, reached #3 in the iTunes blues store, hit #1 on the Roots Music Report blues album chart, and won “Best Self-Released CD” at the 2015 International Blues Challenge. The band was also named “Blues Artist of the Year” at the 2014 WAMI Award Show, and contributed a track (“Tightrope”) to a Stevie Ray Vaughan tribute album being released in the summer of 2017. Charmed & Dangerous delivers blood-pumping blues with a fiery mix of deft songwriting and simmering musicianship. Taylor’s smoldering baritone howls in the opening title track, and breaths fire-and-brimstone on cuts like “On My List to Quit” and “Three Alarm Desire.” The soul-drenched “Eighth Wonder” and scrapyard shuffle “Mint Condition” showcase A5’s songcraft, while “Cookin’ In Your Kitchen” and “If You Heart Went Public” prove you can still rattle the rafters with pure, stone-cold slow blues. The album’s third track, “Three Forks,” was penned about legendary Delta bluesman Robert Johnson and features music, adapted with permission, from the classic cut “Crossroads.”
From day one, Altered Five dared to be different. The quintet formed in 2002 and earned 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 band’s third album, entitled Cryin’ Mercy, delivered 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 hit 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 stinging strut of “Stay Outta My Business,” the vivacious shuffle “I’m in Deep,” the soul-soaked 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. The album earned the band two Blues Blast Award nominations and five WAMI Award nominations, including Artist of the Year, Album of the Year, and Song of the Year (“Find My Wings”). “Find My Wings” also made it to the finals of the International Songwriting Competition. 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. ###