Fri, Apr 5, 2013.
When you have a stand-out singer like Amanda Jackson, things are going to happen. That's just what club and festival audiences around the Maritimes are discovering with P.E.I.'s Bad Habits, fast becoming a favourite blues group here. The group has been keeping up a punishing schedule of shows over the past year, including a whopping seven in three days at the recent ECMA's in Halifax, where I was introduced to them. They also took the Best New Artist trophy at the 2013 Music PEI Awards.
While Jackson's a stand-out, you can't have that without a solid band, and the four other players cook up a fine groove on their debut disc, Good Thing. From the opening pounding jungle beat of How About You, with its nasty guitar chords, you can tell this is a group that thrives on energy. They aren't afraid to play loud and louder, moving over to the rock side of blues, matching the power in Jackson's voice. Even their shuffles, such as Squeeze Me, are played with added intensity, singer and band challenging each other.
But bands cannot live by belting alone, and I actually like Jackson's singing best on the (somewhat) calmer material. Frost On My Fences might be a basic 12-bar, sped up just a bit, but at half-power Jackson's voice really cuts through with its natural gutsy growl. And the gospel of Soar, with its acoustic slide, lets her soar indeed. Big congrats are due for any blues band that puts out a debut with all new, self-written material as well. For now, that's the area where they can grow, and add some more surprises in the tunes and words, but I'm happier with a learning curve on song writing than the cliche blues covers any day.
You can find the group's music at www.afewbadhabits.com
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Bob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).