Fools Parade

Blind Otis And The Lost Highway

Freedom Machine / Surf Records, 1996

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Blind Otis And The Lost Highway are a group which I find hard to categorize. Sounding like a cross between Lee Michaels, John Mellencamp and Bob Seger, their style of music is a mixture of roots rock, moody pop and a touch of the blues.

Sound like an interesting combination? Their second album, Fools Parade, shows that this type of a mixture can indeed work - but it is a bit spotty.

Otis is a passable singer and guitarist, though he seems more comfortable playing rhythm guitar or providing rhythm leads than whipping out a real solo. His hoarse vocal style fits many of the numbers well, but when the mood calls for him to do some crooning, he does this well.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The radio-friendly track on this one, "Dirt," is the one where parallels between such artists like Mellencamp and even the Rolling Stones can be drawn; their influences on the music are clearly heard. Bassist Jeff Downey provides a subtle but solid backbone to the music, while keyboardist Nick Jones and drummer Dave Hooper add a little more texture to the mix. (I do wish that Hooper had been brought forward a litle more in the final mix.)

The band shows they are comfortable moving between solid rockers ("Tomato Boogie") and all-out ballads ("My Sweet Anodyne"), and quite often the transition is smooth - but this is when the material is strong enough to withstand the switch. On a few occasions, like "Synesthesia/28 Candles" coming out of "Dirt," the following song is weaker, and the change is quite noticeable.

And there are a few occasions where I wish the songs had been a little shorter - they would have been just as effective. The duo of "Lady Strange" and "Dark Eyes" is a prime example - though in the band's defense, "Dark Eyes" does move more quickly than the other.

Still, there is a lot of strong material on Fools Parade that makes it a very worthwhile listen. "Guitars And Cadillacs" gives a slight tip of the hat to Dwight Yoakam, while "Fools Lament" and "Ode To Brisco" are very enjoyable numbers, the latter saluting those who make the music and labor away in relative anonymity.

Being on such a small label, there's a good chance that if you're located more than a couple stones' throws from Indianapolis (where Surf Records is headquartered), you've probably never heard of this group. While Fools Parade shows there are still some rough edges that need to be sanded down in their music, it's worth taking the 65 minutes this disc runs and getting to know them.

Rating: B-

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen 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 Freedom Machine / Surf Records, and is used for informational purposes only.