On his sophomore effort as musical alpha dog, Blues Traveler frontman John Popper shines brightest when groovemaster DJ Logic, fellow Blues Traveler alum Tad Kinchla and Mosaic drummer Marcus Bleeker are emphasized in the mix. When that happens, his high, aqueous voice seems grittier, and his looping arabesques on harmonica carry more weight.
Frankly, Kinchla's insistent bass and Logic's artful turntable filigree are the real weapons here, not Popper's harp or radio-ready voice. And he understands as much. Instead of some cloying pop blues tune, he puts the admirably burly 'Laplance' at the top of the disc. Instead of pumping up the middle of the album with lite Afro-blue froth, he comes with heavily echoed vocals and Middle Eastern-influenced harp lines on the psychedelic jam 'Horses.' This is definitely a new, improved Popper.
Which isn't to say that some of the old Blues Traveler lightness doesn't burble up from time to time. 'All Good Children' would have been a sprightly jam hit a dozen years ago. Ditto for the well-meaning, hip-hop-enhanced Hurricane Katrina commentary 'Louisiana Sky.' Whether jam-band diehards want Popper to look that far back in his musical past remains to be seen, but it's a cinch that they'll be impressed by some of the risks he's now taking with a very able cast of supporting players.