Blue In The Face


Roadrunner, 2003

REVIEW BY: Chris Harlow


Back in the early 70's, Rod Stewart told us that every picture tells a story. In 2003, Donnie Hamby and the doubleDrive crew reiterate that concept through images of self-reflection on the cover of Blue in the Face.

For a band that toed the line and impressively held their own in the late 90s supporting the likes of Megadeth and Queensryche on their U.S. tours while promoting their debut album, 1000 Yard Stare, it's hard to believe that Hamby and his bandmates have been put in such a cerebral position today. During the 1000 Yard Stare days, doubleDrive were the fused answer to the dying, depressed grunge movement and the more aggressive metal scene. By taking a more upbeat approach to their sound from what the Pearl Jams of the world were offering, the Atlanta-based quartet came off sounding like a largely reincarnated version of the Stone Temple Pilots back from their Core days. But alas, their label, MCA, (aka the Music Cemetary Association) bungled their promotional responsibilities by taking an inept pulse of the rock scene and walked away from the band.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Fast forward to 2003, four years after their debut album was released, and it's easy to see why the band seems so tentative. The kicked-puppy treatment that MCA harshly administered gave the band plenty of time to deliberate their approach on Blue in the Face.

Unfortunately, Blue in the Face fails to build off of the fused vibe I've mentioned, as the album largely downshifts into a polished effort that destroys the niche they attained for themselves on their first album. Effectively vanilla-ized, the tracks "Million People," "Evenout," "The Hand" and "Big Shove" frustratingly negate the calculated energy of songs like "Hollowbody" and "I Don't Care," the pair that nimbly form the backbone of Blue in the Face.

Interestingly, the first single from Blue in the Face, "Imprint," serves as a spiritualized tearjerker when one considers that Hamby wrote the song with a terminally ill Orlando program director at WJR radio, Dick Sheetz. Sheetz first broke the band to radio, enabling his listeners to make a big enough stink in requesting the song "Tatooed Bruise" that the major labels had to take notice, resulting in the band signing with MCA. With a chorus that simply states, "One step, I make an imprint; two steps, it's commitment" followed by lines that state that Hamby has "gotta tell tell you what I feel, although your tank is running low," Hamby has never vocalized better.

Relegated to performing in largely B and C city markets these days after such a long layoff, one can only hope that Roadrunner gives doubleDrive their promotional due. While I have intimated that doubleDrive have fallen back into the pack of a legion of similar-sounding rock bands in today's world, I'm not prepared to fully discount the imprint that Blue in the Face will leave on the band's legacy. Hamby is as strong a lyricist and vocalist as is performing these days, which counts for a lot, especially considering that the songs I have pointed out as weaknesses on this album are the ones for which he didn't write the music.

Rating: B-

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© 2003 Chris Harlow and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Roadrunner, and is used for informational purposes only.