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BLUES TRAVELER/STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING (A&M Records 31454 0750 2)

The latest offering from Blues Traveler, “Straight On Till Morning,” can be described in one word, confidence. Their last studio release, “Four,” has sold over six million copies and Blues Traveler has proven that a jam band can adapt their sound to produce hit songs. The band has learned to hone their sound into tight four minute bursts for radio consumption. They still wail away in concert, but in the studio calmer minds now prevail.

Although a bona-fide smash, on the level of “Run-Around” or “Hook”, hasn’t yet emerged “Carolina Blues”, “Most Precarious”, and “Canadian Rose” are all receiving some air-play. Several other songs would also be perfectly suited for radio play lists. The disc begins with “Carolina Blues”, a song powered by both forceful drumming from Brendan Hill and John Popper’s driving harmonica. “Felicia” presents Blues Traveler in a sort of party band mood while “Canadian Rose” is a perfect example of vintage John Popper songwriting. The rest of the disc shows the band to be in their best form yet. Years of touring, and having several studio albums under their belt, has molded Blues Traveler into a tight, focused creative force. The band is simply playing better than ever, and has learned to catch that sound in the studio. If anything negative can be said of “Straight On Till Morning” it’s that no one song stands out above the others. Every song is of a remarkably consistent quality and that sometimes keeps a smash hit from getting noticed.

The band is also showing signs of becoming more experimental, “Yours” even includes a string section which was arranged by Popper himself! John Popper isn’t letting himself be limited in any way. He’s tasted success and is now willing to take more chances with his songs. He’s got the talent to write some great songs and I look forward to hearing from him for years to come. Go John! Go Blues Traveler!

This is another disc that’s a definite contender for that soon-to-be-compiled best of ’97 list.