December 2008

Jimmy Thackery and the Drivers - Inside Tracks
Telarc CD-83683
Released: 2008
Format: CD

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

Anybody attempting to enter the power-trio genre invites comparisons to the greats of yesteryear: Jimi Hendrix and the Experience, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble, Cream, and Robin Trower. To be able to carve out one's own niche is a feat worthy of support. Ex-Nighthawks frontman Jimmy Thackery and his group, the Drivers -- made up of Mark Stutso on drums and Mark "Bumpy Rhodes" Bumgarner on bass -- have been forging their own path down the power-trio road since 1991. Their latest album, Inside Tracks (their seventh for Telarc), shows how far they’ve come as well as how well they’ve honed their sound to stand among the titans of this genre. Thackery isn’t the fieriest guitarist you’ll ever hear; he comes from the less-is-more school of blues/rock guitar work. What sets Thackery and the Drivers apart is their cohesiveness as a group. Thackery wrote all but one of the numbers on Inside Tracks, so you get a clear sense of how he approaches group interplay. Yet when he picks a tune to cover, as he does here with Chuck Berry’s "Promised Land," he shows he can play the familiar with a sense of newness that will catch your attention.

Sonically, this album is about what one has come to expect from a Telarc release. It’s offers clean, clear (though not pristine) sound with enough rough edges to make the music sound real. One aspect where this disc differs from the majority of the competition is the noticeable lack of compression. Telarc is not an active participant in the Loudness Wars. Thus, when Thackery lets loose with a mighty guitar line, as in the song "Change The Rules," it might make you jump at the sudden change in intensity.

If you’re a fan of the power trio, give Jimmy and the boys a try. I think you’ll find them worthy successors to the greats who preceded them while still traveling down their own road.