Phil Varca and the SlamJammers – Cash and Don’t Push Me
These two new singles from New York City blues rock trio Phil Varca and the SlamJammers represent another high point in the life of a band that’s been steadily gigging through different incarnations since 1989 and currently enjoys their longest serving lineup since first forming. Their run has been distinguished by a variety of factors but, in the nearly three decades that they’ve existed as a force on the scene, they’ve opened for and supported a wide variety of powerful acts – among them, Buddy Guy, Robin Trower, and Joe Bonamassa. This sort of exposure testifies to their talents and the respect they are accorded by their peers. Their two latest singles, “Cash” and “Don’t Push Me”, reflect the skills that have propelled them through a nearly thirty year run and show them to be a band far from content merely just turning out some new workmanlike material from time to time.
The inspiration is obvious. “Cash” comes on with a lot of rambunctious energy and never lets up while still keeping a degree of nuance going to distinguish it from a flat out blast of guitar energy. There’s inkling of funk infused into the musical structure and feel of the song that Varca’s vocals underline with his penchant for snapping off lines with conviction. The rhythm section is equally potent and gives Varca a flexible, yet steady, foundation for Varca’s often impressively emotive guitar work. Neither of these two singles run too long, but “Cash” is probably the most focused of the two songs, but there’s no sense of short cuts ever being taken and this track gets itself across quite forcefully. It sports very familiar subject matter for this sort of music, but Varca and his band mates find a way to express themselves on a familiar subject in a way that connects with listeners as something new and distinctly their own.
“Don’t Push Me” takes a more considered pace and drummer Russell Stone brings some real swing to the performance that will undoubtedly make fans of the genre quite happy. Varca and the SlamJammers never present the blues as some sort of precious thing; there’s no sense of the style being a butterfly trapped under glass but, instead, a living breathing vehicle for expressing the singer’s experiences. “Don’t Push Me” has a lot of vigor despite taking a more moderate pace than the earlier song and, taken together, they make for an impressive package that reminds us of the blues’ abiding power as a musical style. These songs are intensely conveyed, well played, and sang as if hitting the right note means the difference between life and death. Phil Varca and the SlamJammers perform this music the way it should be – with a sense of something, even trivial to some, at stake for the singer and band. “Cash” and “Don’t Push Me” are among the best songs in this style that you’ll hear in our modern musical world.