It seems like it has been ages since Matt Woods said goodbye to his longtime compatriots, The Thunderbolts. In point of fact, it has been right about two years, and, in that time, Woods has popped up here and there with other musicians but has spent most of his time going solo. Amongst the central Iowa blues faithful, Woods’ music is hallowed ground. And with good reason: It doesn’t take more than a few seconds of “It Ain’t Stealin’” for even the most tone-deaf of listeners to start nodding their heads in appreciation of Woods’ talent. The opening track gives way to “JP’s Boogie”; an instrumental, slide-heavy piece with such an old soul, it could have come off a 1920s wax cylinder. That is a feeling that permeates the entire effort: “Sawdust and Gasoline” is as traditional a blues album as you are apt to find, and in all the best ways. The Thunderbolts may be gone, but Woods proves that lightning can still strike.
The Monday Mourners fill a curious middle ground. As their Reverbnation bio says, “If you like country, we sound like rock. If you like rock, we sound like country.” In truth, while the band’s rock influences are difficult to deny, the Mourners are a country act that operates in the Waylon Jennings/Johnny Cash tradition of the genre. The Mourners have a full, warm sound, and tracks like “Provo” and “North of the River” emphasize the low end through heavy bass and guitars that rarely seem to venture beyond the fifth fret. The result is an album that feels decidedly classic without coming off as dated. Even when the band’s schtick teeters over into cheesy territory (“Bad Habit”), the Mourners manage to make it work and have turned in one of the more satisfying albums of the young year.