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Balkan crossroads

A Whiter Shade of Blue
A Whiter Shade of Blue
By Point Blank Blues Band

Self-released: 2008

This review first appeared in Turbula in April 2009.

How a group of musicians growing up in Tito's Communist Yugoslavia ended up forming one of the world's great electric blues bands is a mystery that stateside fans of Serbia's Point Blank Blues Band may never fully solve. Appreciating their gritty interpretation of the American form, though, takes no effort at all – particularly as vocalist Dragoljub Crnčević (referred to by his stage name of "DR" on earlier albums) sings exclusively in English in his deep baritone.

Their latest CD may be their best in terms of both their songwriting and playing. It finds them adding a strong streak of Texas influences to the 1960s British blues that had clearly shaped their earlier recordings – think Stevie Ray Vaughan sitting in with John Mayall or Savoy Brown.

Crnčević is also a brilliant guitarist – clean leads, incisive runs, a sure hand on the whammy bar. Whether stretching out for 16 bars on a solo or providing a short fill between choruses, Crnčević consistently shows a wonderful balance of virtuosity and taste. As songwriter, too, Crnčević continues to improve. "Belgrade Blues" is a sort of Balkan take on "Sweet Home Chicago" – a broken-hearted love song that just rocks out. And "Roll On" has a sort of Allman Bros. groove to it (in large part due to the soulful electric piano of Darko Grujić).