There's an old adage that good songs are good songs and the instrumentation and tones used are just dressing to serve the song. However, it can be argued that a tone itself can inspire the artist and coax the songs out of them. Without the buzzsaw fury of Keith Richards' Maestro FuzzTone, (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction would never have gotten that aggressive, impatient hustle that transformed it from a light filler track to a classic of classics. Without copious amounts of delay, the works of David Gilmour and The Edge would fall flat, stripped of their ethereal glow and cascading omnipresence. Neil Young's combination of his heavy low midrange neck pickup with a coarse overdrive became his signature sound which transformed him from folk troubadour to the Godfather of Grunge.

A similar burly guitar tone pervades the debut album by Bay Area rockers, Strange Culprits. Guitarist and vocalist Jason Buckingham's use of bristly open chords in combination with his heavy-chested croon makes for a standout version of road-ready, storytelling blues. Backed by drummer Tony Loftin and bassist (and wife) Samantha Buckingham, Strange Culprits have put together a nine-song debut of American rock that teems with aspiration, longing, and soul.

The opener 'Moonlight' with it's rompin' drums, hearty bouncing bass, and big gritty chords brings to mind fellow Californian rockers, Social Distortion for a minute. However, where Social D keep the chords in brighter realms, Strange Culprits opt to go darker. The minor notes in Buckingham's chords stick out and break up under the gravelly overdrive. He hollers at the moon inviting overnight capers. Hot, dry nights scouring the California landscape. In another standout track, 'Fleeting Moments', the Culprits take on a low-down crunchy blues. The darkly, descending blues riff of the verse contrasts nicely with the momentary reprieve of the rising chorus of dense chordage.

Strange Culprits debut sets an encompassing tone. The genres may crossover from soul to punk to dark blues and back to rock n roll but the album maintains a steady flow. Good tunes for late nights on the road.

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