Saturday, December 21, 2013

Kris Lager Band: Swagadocious Album Review


This CD review was originally published in the April 25, 2013 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

Kris Lager Band – Swagadocious

Self Release

15 tracks / 1:07:41

Having spent a few of my formative years in the Midwest, I would never think of the state of Nebraska as being terribly hip or funky, and in Oklahoma we certainly had plenty of Nebraska jokes. But the Kris Lager Band comes out of the Cornhusker State with a heavy load of blues funk to blow my preconceptions right out of the water. Their fifth studio release, Swagadocious, is a huge album that is full of high-energy blues-based funk and boogie.

The Kris Lager Band has spent the last ten years touring around the Midwest, and countless gigs have enabled them to not only master their instruments and stagecraft, but to find their own sound. Kris Lager heads up the crew with his scorching guitars and solid vocals. Jeremiah Weir plays the keyboards, Brandon Hiller takes care of the bass parts, and John Fairchild handles the drums and takes on some of the vocal and lap steel chores. The band also mixes horns in on five of the tracks to keep things interesting; it certainly helps take this album to places they have not been before.

If you buy Swagadocious you will get your money’s worth, as there is an hour and seven minutes of quality music stuffed into this package. This includes fifteen original tracks, and Lager gets writing credit on all of them. Right from the first verse it is evident that Kris is a great songwriter and that this is a band with great chops. “Come to Boogie / Now You Know” starts things out on a fun note with fat organ sounds and raunchy guitar tone over a rock-solid beat. Kris’ voice has a lot of soul and his blistering solo work helps this mid-tempo blues rock tune set the mood for the rest of the album.

The next track, “Sunny Day Souldier,” has a more laid back soul vibe, but the band still brings it on in a big way. Weirs’ Hammond and the tight horn section paint a nice background for Fairchild’s heartfelt vocals and the band’s harmonies. There is also a fun 1960’s-issue call and response, so there is no way to listen to this song and not come away in a good mood.

This segues into my favorite song on Swagadocious, “Daylight Come / There is No Place.” This guitar-driven psychedelic blues rock song has wide variations in tempo, but still maintains a constant tone and focus. Lager is at the top of his game on this one, with mad guitar skills and howling vocals. Hiller and Fairchild do a masterful job of holding things together as the song speeds up and slow down. I will have to sneak this one into the mix for my next DJ gig.

The Kris Lager Band is constantly evolving and trying new things, as you will hear throughout this album. John Fairchild even managed to slip a little rap and scratching into the funk-filled “Get Back,” not in a hardcore East Coast / West Coast manner, but more in the spirit of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. These guys are not afraid to try something different, and I think it worked out well in this case.

The late Magic Slim makes a guest appearance on an impromptu track, “Kris Done Took my Woman.” This 12-bar blues song makes the full use of Slim’s rich voice, and Kris backs off the distortion a little on his guitar to fit into this more traditional framework. This song was well-placed in the mix, as breaking things down to the basics provides a nice pause from the complexity of the other tracks on the album.

The other ten tracks are just as good as these, and the overall consistency is indicative of the maturity of this band as well as their musical and songwriting skills. Swagadocious sounds as big and fabulous as its title and there is plenty to like here; if you are a blues, funk or soul fan and are looking for something a little out of the ordinary you have to check this album out.

If you like their music, I understand that the guys have not let the grass grow under their feet, and are finishing up yet another album, Platte River Runaway. This is being produced by the heavy-hitting bluesman Tab Benoit, so I expect it to be just as good as Swagadocious. The Kris Lager Band is the real deal, and I expect only great things from them!


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