In the first week of March 2020, I sat down with Altered Five Blues Band frontman Jeff Taylor and guitarist Jeff Schroedl and then wrote an article about their latest album and upcoming gig at Shank Hall. .
“The Altered Five Blues Band traveled a lot of miles between the release of their fourth and fifth albums, several thousand of them were air miles,” the article began …
And then COVID hit, the concert was canceled and the trip stopped. Now, finally, their Shank Hall show is back on the schedule and a sixth album has been released, Holler if you hear me. Earlier this month, he debuted at number 3 on Billboard Charter of the Blues.
Schroedl seems unfazed. “We had planned three trips to Europe for 2020, including festivals in France, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Poland,” he says. “With it all set aside, we used the time to write new songs.”
New material on Holler if you hear me continue on the road to their 2019 album, Ten thousand watts. The rhythm section of bassist Mark Solveson and drummer Alan Arber delivers the music with a lot of power. Schroedl’s guitar whips like the back of a whip, and Taylor’s bossy voice makes difficult lyrics come through. Keyboardist Raymond Tevich adds details on the piano and organ.
Holler if you hear me was recorded earlier this year in Nashville by Tom Hambridge, whose production credits include acclaimed bluesmen such as Buddy Guy and James Cotton. “At the end of last summer , we started rehearsing in a garage with the door open, like in the good old days! said Schroedl. “Once winter arrived, we did a few Zoom sessions but it wasn’t the same. Then just before the studio sessions, we started rehearsing again to shake up the cobwebs and work on the new songs.
Bawl is their fourth album with Hambridge. “He has incredible instincts and a knack for bringing in productive ideas,” says Schroedl. Like those classic chess LPs, Bawl was eliminated quickly, in just five days. “For most of the songs, we did two or three takes at most,” Schroedl continues. “We swear he [Hambridge] has a photographic mind because he can hear something once and offer sharp commentary. We work very quickly so everything is fresh and alive.
Altered Five has joined the ranks of Short Stuff and Leroy Airmaster among the most successful bands from the Milwaukee blues subculture. Part of that success came when they went from a little Minneapolis indie to Blind Pig, one of America’s most respected blues labels. Ten thousand watts reached number 10 on Billboard blues chart, was everywhere on Spotify and was heard almost daily on Sirius XM’s “Bluesville”.
They are eager to make up for the lost year. Altered Five will spend weekends performing in the Midwest this fall and line up shows in 2022 in the US and Europe. “One advantage for us,” says Schroedl living in Milwaukee, “is that we’re more centrally located and can travel to many cities in one day. “
Altered Five Blues Band performs at Shank Hall on Saturday October 9th.