Steel guitar virtuoso Jon Rauhouse's second Bloodshoot album delivers a variegated blend of cowboy jazz, retro-country and a little inspired wackiness.
The set's most accessible material comes via the Big Band-era's "Smoke Rings" and "Prisoner of Love," which Kelly Hogan sings with plenty of understated, yet steamy '40s panache. Equally impressive is Neko Case's pure and pretty emotional connection to the acoustic redrafting of "River of No Return." Rauhouse himself offers some sturdy western bandleader vocals on "Coin and Coffee" and the Gene Krupa-flavored "Indian Love Call." But, make no mistake, the reason you listen to a Rauhouse album is to dig that eerie steel guitar playing. Whether recutting "The Saber Dance" as "Powerhouse," getting Django Rhinehart jazzy with "Roaches to Room Service" or transforming Fred Steiner's "Perry Mason Theme" into space-age noir, Rauhouse effortlessly conjures both dancehall and starlight atmosphere galore. Then, once you've grown accustomed to his style, he slams you with a little banjo overdrive bluegrass ("Jennifer's Breakdown"), a garage rock "Sixteen Tons" hybrid ("Work Work") and some sweet Hawaiian sounds ("Hamma Hamma Hula").
Exhibiting an obvious love of pop culture, Rauhouse has crafted a project that entertains on several different levels and offers something fresh with each successive listening.