“Dragging the pain into the light of music” is how the liner notes describe the aim of “New Shoes — Old Blues,” the latest record from Maine’s Aykroyd-Belushi team, the Colwell Brothers. Bob and Pat Colwell, and the rest of their blues crew, know firsthand the transcendence that a well-placed phrase can offer in the doldrums of winter.

When they’re on, this is one fun little outfit. With barn-burners like the title track, or red-hot covers like Herbert Walker’s “My Eyes Keep Me in Trouble,” the bros can expect a dance floor jammed with sweaty, smiling folks. Using insistent drums, boogie-woogie harp and spot-on guitar instincts on almost every track, these guys are pros at drowning sorrows.

Rockers aren’t the only arrow in the quiver, though. The bros find an easy spinning groove in “Way Past Time,” a ’70s Stones-type of ballad with a patient rhythm section and a steady Wurlitzer to tie the tune together.

What’s inexplicable on this record are the moments when the Brothers forget the intimate empathy that blues was invented to conjure, and instead don their political commentary hats. “The mothers out on the street/ Beggin’ for a dime or a dollar/ The babies can’t eat/ It’s enough to make a grown man holler,” they wail on “America (Is Melting Down).” This reductive mess rears its ugly head several times on “New Shoes — Old Blues,” and calls for an instant track switch. The Colwell Brothers should keep it simple, bluesy and fun. Trying to tell others how to think defeats the whole purpose.


Mike Olcott is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.


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