Bonerama, Plays Zeppelin – Review
by Constance Tucker
Bonerama is at it again. The group known for their energetic live shows and funking brass renditions of classic rocks songs, will set forth their latest release due out April 26, 2019 on Basin Street Records. Bonerama is taking on the Led Zepplin songbook and its all about the slam dunk hits we all grew up on. Its time to get the Led out and who better than Bonerama to give us their brassy renditions.
While the group has certainly endured lineup changes, member displacement, tragedy and loss over the years, the song for Bonerama has remained the same. The band has performed and recorded with countless national artists such as R.E.M., OKGo, Tom Morello, Wayne Kramer (MC5), Jill Sobule. Festivals and events such as Monterey Jazz Fest to High Sierra Music Festival, Jam Cruise, Bear Creek Festival and of course the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival only outline the extensive festival work this band has seen. National television appearances on CBS (Late Show with David Letterman), HBO (Comic Relief, Treme) and CNN have further exposed Bonerama to a wide range of unsuspecting new viewers.
“Black Dog,” is certainly a heralded Led tune. Taking on any of the infamous tunes is filling large shoes. Bonerama lights it up with a distorted wah-wah trombone, as a substitute of the traditional guitar sound normally associated with the tune. Alex Joseph “A.J.” Hall is on drums and vocals (I assume based on live performances, unfortunately the liner notes and press release are not clearly notated) undoubtedly hallmark roles in the Led Zeppelin DNA. His gritty voice is suited to the tune, though Robert Plant is not comparable, I think its important to compare the merit of the performance as Led Zepplin’s enduring popularity is based on their matchless talents. Bonerama is up to the task, the instrumentation of Craig Klein and Greg Hicks on trombones and Matt Perrin on sousaphone give the tune a signature sound. The arrangement is kept close to the original and the meat is in the instrumentation and performances in a jazz-rock format.
Special guest vocalist Michael Mullins appears on “Good Times Bad Times,” once again, the group sticks close to the original arrangement with the augmentation of brass. Mullin’s vocal tone offers as smooth polished vocal quality. Stylistically, he infuses a funky blues-based rhythm and timbre in his voice. A flurry of brass mania gives way to electric guitarist Bert Cotton’s solo. Fuzzy distortion and crashing drums by Hall offer up a hard-hitting sound that ROCKS! I must note, the backing vocal harmonies by Klein, Hicks and Hall add a slice of sweet depth to the track. The final outro is where Mullins nails it, his high-pitched rock scream sells it, and I am buying!
Recognized around the world for their provocative live performances, Bonerama is no stranger to rock tunes reimagined with a New Orleans flavoring. 20 years of making music together has brought forth a worthy take on the Led Zeppelin songbook. A worthy listen.