|THE BLUES has always been the root that rock flowers from. But like a wild weed in the cotton fields, it’s sometimes inseparable from the plant that feeds it. Were the early Rolling Stones doing rock, or just another version of the blues? And was Muddy Waters a blues master or a rock ‘n roller? What about Stevie Ray Vaughn, or even the White Stripes for that matter? The field gets obscured with an eclectic mix of offshoots and overgrowths, but one thing is certain – stray too far from that basic twelve-bar blues pattern and the music stops being rock. It may remain pop music, and some may get off on whatever the hell it is that gets ‘em off, but at that point your mojo will definitely stop working.
Like their name suggests, the Twelve have remained true to the origins and structure of rock, yet they haven’t let themselves be restricted by it either and come out sounding as contemporary as any of the buzz bands out of Williamsburg. You could hear the inflections and phrasing of early British bluesrock wailers like Mick Jagger, Eric Burdon and even Van Morrison (circa Them) in the voice of Noel Harnden as he led the Twelve through a fiery set at the Luna Lounge. Harnden finds his own voice as well, adding a unique timbre and texture to familiar ground. And while John Bollinger and Tim Lane keep a strong groove on drums and bass respectively, guitarist Jason Clark uses the solid path of the rhythm section for some unexpected flights of fancy. With bends, screeches, pull-offs and feedback as well as straight ahead rhythms and runs, Clark coaxes a ton of feeling out of his tortured guitar. This band’s definitely got their mojo working.
Unbelievably, this is Noel Harnden’s first real band. Back in Manchester, England he jammed with his mates, but it wasn’t until he moved to New York and began writing songs with Clark that a vision of the Twelve was formed - finding something new to say within the boundaries of blues-based rock ‘n roll. They’ve succeeded as displayed on their latest ten-song release Blow Your Top! which is a follow-up to their five-track 5X12. Samples can be heard at their website