By Dave Resto
At Rock and Blues Muse, we enjoy making the occasional U-turn to cover a great album which our readers may have missed. Released in 2016, The Paul Nelson Band’s Badass Generation (Sony Records, produced by Paul Nelson) is a sumptuous, twelve-track blues-rock banquet that is well worth checking out.
Multiple Grammy Award-winning, Paul Nelson, is a genuine virtuoso guitarist with a notable resume. He produced and played guitar on several of Johnny Winter’s albums, including the Grammy-nominated I’m a Blues Man, Roots, and Step Back. The latter won him a Grammy Award for “Best Blues Album.” Nelson has also toured with Eric Clapton, Billy Gibbons, Robben Ford, Joe Perry, Joe Walsh, Brian Setzer, Vince Gill, members of the Allman Brothers Band, and more, and received a Grammy nomination as producer and performer on Joe Louis Walker’s Everybody Wants a Piece.
He brings those impressive skills and accomplishments to Badass Generation, where he’s assembled a hand selected band which includes vocalist Morten Fredheim (who came in at second place on the European version of The Voice); bassist Christopher Alexander, keyboardist Danny Louis (Gov’t Mule) and drummer Chris Reddan (Popa Chubby).
Opening with the slow, heavy grinder “Down Home Boogie,” we get a good sense of what the Paul Nelson Band is all about. The guitars are tastefully layered with catchy riffs, the deliberate pacing of the rhythm, and the alternating spotlights between lead and slide guitar. Fredheim’s vocals have both a pristine and raw quality. He inflects his smooth voice with just the right touch of throaty rasp. The big drums and bright cymbals punch through as they ride the bassline hard and steady. The very last bass guitar note as the song ends, is low, staccato and wonderfully evil.
“Keep it All Together” has a fantastic, nostalgic, 70’s “feel-good rock” vibe. Again, Nelson creates the effect of a symphony of guitars, this time working in acoustic flourishes. Danny Louis also adds some very nice keyboard work here.
Another song with a similar retro 70’s feel, a la the Steve Miller Band, is “Please Come Home” with its airy vocals, acoustics rhythms and leads, and bongo flourishes. The electric slide work at the end is short-lived but oh, so sweet.
“Goodbye Forever” features a guitar solo where Nelson uses a remarkable array of chops in a very musical way: harmonics, chirps, singing notes, wah-wah pedal and fret hammering all happen in the space of a few well-used measures.
“Cold Hearted Mama,” “Out of Time” and “Trouble” are a trio of rough house rockers which really feature the strength of the rhythm section, as they go through some inspiring sonic gymnastics. “Trouble” is very similar in spirit to old school Aerosmith, as is another track–the slow, electric bayou-blues-rocker “Swamp Thing.”
In direct contrast to these hard-edged tracks are the sweetly smooth “Come with Me” and “Fooled by Love.” “Come with Me” opens with some very Eric Johnson sounding guitar and features more jaw-dropping vocals by Morten Fredheim, who shifts from subtle to soaring so effortlessly. “Fooled by Love” sounds like a hybrid between ZZ Top (the riff during the verses) and Bon Jovi (during the choruses) and here, that’s a good thing.
The song which has been most stuck in my head since listening to Badass Generation has definitely been “Root to All Evil.” It’s an up-tempo, slinky blues shuffle with the right amount of rock to push it along. Nelson’s guitar style makes a familiar form sound fresh and Fredheim’s vocals are doubled up to self-harmonize so effectively that it will give you chills. See if you’re not singing, “She’s so evil now” for days, as I’ve been.
Punching the accelerator to cross the finish line is the powerful rocker, “Take it Back.” It’s a simple but effective formula that lets the guys get in their last licks and they make it count.
Badass Generation is reminiscent of the various classic rock bands that so many of us grew up on. The Paul Nelson Band set out to write songs and record performances that captured the spirit of beloved era, where the songs mattered and stayed with you. And, due to Paul Nelson’s strengths as a producer, the incredible sound of Badass Generation blossoms as the volume increases. Be sure to turn it up.
For more information on Badass Generation and The Paul Nelson Band: