Release Date: 2006
Label: Fuel 2000 Records
This self-titled album is a joint effort from Craig Northey (the Odds) and Jesse Valenzuela (Gin Blossoms); Northey Valenzuela is the specialized blues-country record that neither respective band was focused on creating. Northey brings in his enthusiasm for songwriting while Valenzuela comes in with vocals, and the pair sounds like they’ve spent their entire careers recording together. The music is based heavily on guitar and low, searching lyrics but the duo is also well supported by bassist Doug Elliot and drummer Pat Steward, also ex-Odds members.
As alternative blues albums go, this is a solid effort by some talented musicians but the entire record is just a bit much for me. I do enjoy songs about how you can watch your dog run away for three days as much as the next prairie dweller, but without a particularly interesting musical sound to back it up I (and a lot of other people, I think) tend to get lost. In fact, this album takes me back to the Soul Asylum record Let Your Dim Light Shine; I played the damn thing a hundred times just so I could hear “Misery,” but the record only got played fully on the occasional night when I needed something mellow to listen to while falling asleep. I might be persuaded to do the same with this album if only for “Talk to Yourself” and “Hurting on the Outside,” cleverly the first and last tracks on the record. Holding out for the middle takes some determination.
Why? I’ve got a soft spot for down-home tunes, I guess, just not generally in large doses. I like the fact that the patchwork band was able to use blues structures over country and alternative rock, but I think the downfall with this particular combination of sounds is that the common tie between them is merely depressive and always irritating after a certain length of time. Regardless of this disheartening impression of their music, Northey and Valenzuela know what they’re doing and I can honestly say that an echo of the fun they had making this album came through the speakers. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enticing enough to leave a lasting impression, I’m sorry to say.
Northey Valenzuela was certainly a record for those who made it. Odds fans will likely appreciate it, but aside from that pre-established fan base it’s not likely to receive huge sales from the rest of us. I wish them all the best, and I’m glad they had fun.