Boogie/blues-rock slide guitarist Sardinas has a lot going for him: a snarling attack that can be acoustic or amplified to 11, and a killer live show that leaves him, along with his tight two-piece backing unit and most of the audience, drenched in sweat. Unfortunately, his debit column includes a hoarse voice with minimal range, a predilection to shout instead of sing, and a narrow, melodic songwriting style he seems content to milk every drop out of. While his previous release tamped down some of these limitations with a larger palate and somewhat more intricate arrangements, he's returned to a stripped-down sound for this one. Fans won't mind, since he's slinging out typically fiery licks amid all the bluster, but with by-the-numbers, occasionally misogynistic boogie rockers about tired, even clichéd concepts such as "Full Tilt Mama," "Road to Ruin," and "Burning Sugar," this is not going to expand his relatively narrow reach. What's particularly frustrating is that Sardinas has studied and understands the great slide guitar playing country/Delta bluesmen, and should be capable of more variation and imagination in his own music. Instead, he aims for lowest common denominator: hell-raising boogie which, even when energized by female backing vocals or guest organ, doesn't color outside its own limited lines. A solo acoustic, unaccompanied "Ratchet Blues" heads in the right direction, but at under two minutes, it's little more than a diversion from the full-throttle attack that follows on "Behind the 8," the album's only instrumental. That track is filled with hot riffs but, like the majority of Sardinas' work, lacks the subtleties that separate great bluesmen from the also-rans. With his resonator guitar and undeniable six-string prowess, he's a talented and distinctive enough player to be able to elevate his music above the amped up, dumbed down performances on Sticks & Stones.
© Hal Horowitz /TiVo