Trampled Under Foot are the kind of success story we all love to experience. After years of paying dues and putting in the hard work, they are finally hitting their stride. In 2008, TUF won the Blues Foundation’s 24th International Blues Challenge in Memphis, and Nick Schnebelen (guitar and vocals) took home the prestigious Albert King Award for best guitarist. In 2009, they played a landmark set at the Notodden Blues Festival in Norway, gaining much recognition and acclaim. Finally, in 2011, Trampled released the well received Wrong Side of The Blues on the Vizzitone label, gaining an even larger and more devoted following.
Now, Trampled Under Foot rumble back with Badlands, a breathtaking and well executed album issued on their new label, Telarc International, a division of the Concord Music Group. As this release shows, TUF has grown exponentially since Wrong Side of The Blues, and the talent on display here is formidable! TUF are a family band; Nick Schnebelen – guitars and vocals, Danielle Schnebelen – lead vocals and bass, and Kris Schnebelen on drums. For this outing, producer Tony Braunagel (drummer in Phantom Blues Band), recruited keyboardist Mike Finnigan (Etta James, Bonnie Raitt, and Jimi Hendrix) to play keyboards and Braunagel joins in playing percussion here and there on the album as well. Recording engineer Johnny Lee Schell did an exceptional job, as did John Porter, who mixed the final results at Independent Street Studios in New Orleans. The sound on this album is pristine and very well mixed; it has depth, allowing the listener to experience every delightful nook and cranny of the music.
The album opens with the strong, soulful “Bad Bad Feeling,” featuring a nice solo from Nick, and a smooth vocal from Danielle (man, she sounds good!). Standout tracks include “Mary,” with its softly sexy vocal, and music to match. Very subtle, and an excellent performance from the band. “Badlands” is a hair quicker, but still slow and full of layered textures, with a great vocal from one of the brothers (no notation indicates which one). “Pain In My Mind” sounds like a really rich Randy Newman track with some fine guitar lines from Nick. “I Didn’t Try” is sultry Northside soul infused goodness, and features another fine vocal turn from Danielle.
Other choice cuts include “Desperate Heart,” which is reminiscent of Otis Rush’s wonderful soul laden excursions, with still more expressive playing from everyone, and a great vocal by Kris or Nick. “Home To You” is moderately paced and slightly bouncy, with spot on keyboard and guitar lines. The album closer is a nod to James Brown with “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World.”
Again, the growth since their last album is phenomenal. All the work, touring, and just honing their chops is readily apparent on Badlands. Take this for a spin. You will be glad you did!