The sound of American blues has progressively changed, leading to different breeds of music since the use of the electric guitar. In turn, this opened the door for rhythm & blues and subsequently rock ’n' roll. Blues "hybrids" are numerous, from hard rock of the late ’60's (bands like Cream, Led Zeppelin) to late ’70s West Coast punk/rockabilly (Gun Club and The Blasters, for example, the latter of which would often perform as the "Jubilee Train Singers," backing R&B greats like Big Mama Thornton and Big Jim Turner). In the late 1990s, with the rise of a new blues-based label, Fat Possum, blues legends like R.L. Burnside were given a second life (in terms of distribution and exposure), sometimes experimenting with more contemporary arrangements, as in Burnside's 1998 release Come On In, produced by Tom Rothrock (Elliot Smith, Beck).
Don Cavalli, a mid-30s Parisian gardener, has his own interpretation of blues, wrapping his songs in ’60s pop arrangements. His use of the wah-wah pedal, short catchy riffs and a weary voice allow for unique and oddball juxtapositions of musical styles. All of the songs featured on Cavalli's debut release, Cryland, are sung in English, although with his French accent, it sounds Cajun; he sometimes sings in a French patois, as in "Cherie De Mon Coeur." Cavalli seems to also have soaked in the gritty New Orleans influence, eccentricity and groove, with a bare bones use of guitar, bass and snare drum and the occasional harmonica.
He also treads that fuzzy garage rock/Americana line that is so evident in Brits Holly Golightly, Billy Childish and Memphis' Reigning Sound (among numerous others) on songs such as the funky "Wonder Chairman," the Gershwin brothers/Du Bose classic "Summertime" and the hard edge riff of "Casual Worker." On the latter, he could teach a thing or two to U.S. contemporaries like The Black Keys and John Spencer's Blues Explosion.
Cavelli doesn't simply emote the blues; he seems to feel it, without the forced drama. His tinny, chicken-scratch rhythm, however, recalls Jimmy Reed, above anything else. But when you listen to the guitar solo in the title track, "Cryland," his playing would comfortably fit in a song by the Northern African band Tinariwen. He's all over the map.
The album is an eclectic oddity, but the songs on Cryland, with their odd musical combinations, seem to fit together. The end result is unique, fun and thoroughly enjoyable. Even on the weird Beefheart-like "New Hollywood Babylon," Cavalli creates an atmosphere that makes the song sound ... well, normal, at least in the context of the recording. That's not such an easy feat.