Five years ago Alvin Youngblood Hart sat in the middle of a bare studio at Coast Recorders hard by the Bay Bridge, patiently recording and rerecording traditional acoustic blues tunes, including Charlie Patton's “Pony Blues,” as his engineer and producers fussed over which take was best. The resulting record, Big Mama's Door, was hailed as the arrival of a stellar young blues purist, but Hart quickly busted out of that box. That's because in addition to his family links to the Mississippi Delta, his time spent working on the river, his close study of old records, and his fiddling with a variety of antique stringed instruments, Hart was also a garage rocker in high school who still likes to crank up the distortion and let off some steam. His new release, Start With the Soul, is as compelling as Big Mama's Door in a completely different way. The former East Bay tree trimmer, who spent a lot of time on the Ratdog tour and now resides in Memphis, does a killer version of “Treat Her Like a Lady,” a 1972 chestnut that was an R&B hit for the Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose. He also covers a Black Oak Arkansas tune and 1960s Seattle grunge rocker Gerry Roslie's “The Hustler” while doing originals that show traces of Hendrix and Zappa. So much for being a slave to the blues. Yet Hart's earthy, broken voice retains plenty of blues feel and the arrangements on most cuts is your basic, raw threesome or foursome.
Hart returns to town to open for New Orleans funksters Galactic, who have built a considerable following with long, sweaty shows featuring their Meters-inspired — but jazz- and metal-inflected — instrumental grooves. As on their recent release Late for the Future (Capricorn), expect the set to be punctuated from time to time with the smoked-out sound of vocalist Theryl “Houseman” de Clouet.