CD Review: Pat Travers Band – Can Do

CD Review: Pat Travers Band – Can Do
Frontiers Records
All Access Rating: B+

Pat Travers Band - Can Do 2013
Nobody’s found the switch yet to turn out the lights on Pat Travers. Approaching age 60, he can still coax beautiful melodies and electrifying power from an amplified guitar and get it to speak fluently in multiple tongues, such as powerhouse hard rock, hot funk and cool soul grooves, smoky blues and emotional balladry.

His conversations are simple and heartfelt these days, like those conducted in a dark, lonely tavern between two used-up people who don’t have the heart to lie anymore. Here’s one more for the road.

Lively, gritty and at times stylish, with spotless production, Can Do finds the Pat Travers Band talking in simple languages everybody from the hopeless romantic to the working-class slob can understand, setting hooks that have a firm grip and an easy logic. The latest studio album from the Toronto-born guitar slinger is by turns thoughtful and reflective, as the glassy serenity and breezy warmth of “Diamond Girl” and the wistful “Wanted (That was Then/This is Now)” so effectively illustrate, and vigorously defiant, shaking his fist at Father Time in rugged, driving rockers like “Stand Up/Give It Up,” “Armed and Dangerous” and “Long Time Gone,” a nod to Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen” where his clearly defined guitars are searing.

Nowhere near as explosive or as sweaty as the classic Live! Go for What You Know concert LP and somewhat reserved in parts, Can Do is still mostly a spirited romp through Travers’ past and present circumstances, as the feverish title track surges and smolders in the heat of a summer night and the sparkling “As Long As I’m With You” unabashedly wallows in the joys of a real, warts-and-all love. Reinvigorated by his new relationship with Frontiers Records, Travers brings together a band of brothers that includes bassist Rodney O’Quinn, second guitarist Kirk McKim and the prodigal drummer Sandy Gennaro on drums, and they serve the songs well.

It’s a tight unit that’s in perfect sync with Travers’ many moods, weaving wonderful harmonics together in lovely figures when the occasion calls for it and then shifting into riff-heavy rock ‘n’ roll overdrive on Travers’ command, sliding comfortably into the utterly infectious blues grooves of “Dust & Bone,” a delicious bite of tasty blues-rock Aerosmith would have given up heroin for in the ‘80s, and allowing the melodic movements of “Waitin’ on the End of Time” to breathe.

Want to hear Travers stretch out and really show the kind of diversity and creativity he’s capable of? The beguiling instrumental “Keep Calm and Carry On” explores every facet of his skillful, classy playing, displaying a deft touch, cleverly executed maneuvers and a nice warm feel that are as apparent in the quieter, softer moments as they are when volcanic eruptions explode from his instrument. Is slide guitar your thing? He can reel off steely licks in his sleep. And if you want this Canadian to channel Lynyrd Skynard and fry up some high-energy Southern rock, there’s the boisterous “Red Neck Boogie” to scratch that itch. The charms of Can Do will bloom, just not right away. Wait for it. Your patience will be rewarded.

– Peter Lindblad

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