More of the novel yet uninteresting same
The problem with covers is that there is no guarantee that the listener is aware of the original, and therefore any changes or improvements will be missed. Apparently, Danny Kroha did some wild things on his solo sophomore to these established blues and folk standards, incorporating different versions into one amalgam unlike anything before. However, without any of that context, Detroit Blues delivers nothing entertaining. The liner notes might be full of novel instruments, yet they produce no interesting sounds as songs blur together and it sits in the center of any scale, neither too clean nor dirty, warm or cold, sharp or pleasant to be intriguing.
Kroha got his start with The Gories, a punk and garage rock band from Detroit with a clear love of old-school blues. At first, one would think that the raw sound of blues was simply a product of the pandemic, which has lead many folk and country artists to record in their homes with their tours canceled and their income diminished. However, that is not the case with Kroha since his first record, Angles Watching Over Me, was just as ramshackle and intentionally discordant. The guitars sound like their insides were violently ripped out of their body and the position of Kroha’s vocals are left to chance. Occasionally there’s a bit of bass jug resembling a digeridoo or something that would open a Crowded House song, on “Run Johnny,” the only instrumental here, or a kazoo on “Adam and Eve” alongside fuller, more consistent strumming. “Leavin’ Blues” comes the closest to working with the most interesting interplay, a consistent fidelity, and flavorful little licks. Yet, it is the exception to this otherwise dreary and miserable experience.
The most succinct portrait of the album’s problems can be found on “Oh Death,” where Kroha exaggerates and extends syllables in a matter fitting of a song about imminent death. However, the tone of the song is out of whack. The main riff oscillates between a pretty, clean acoustic tone and a shrill, sharp one that sounds like the guitar strings are about to snap from being tied too tightly. It’s an intriguing combination of sounds, and these two avenues have potential on their own or working together, yet they either don’t feel deliberate or aren’t executed well enough. “Little Lulie” has one of the cleaner tones and a more urgent tempo, yet the melody is utterly boring and repetitive. On the other hand, “Way Down In Florida On A Hog” is springy and shrill, yet it feels entirely improvisational without any of the fire or energy to make it work.
None of this is helped by an omnipresent stomping that is just quiet enough to have no punch and just loud enough to be impossible to ignore, and the attempts to jazz up this formula with shakers on “I’ll be Rested” aren’t enough. Kroha’s performance fits into the same no man’s land, going for zany scatting on “Rich Girl, Poor Girl” and ominous drawl on “Come Out the Wilderness” and doing neither especially well. However, the arbitrary vocal placement in the mix does him no favors. Even with the loads of instruments that are supposed to be present, the end result of Detroit Blues is a homogeneous experience with little to offer and even less to those who heard it all the first time.