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CD Review: Blues Traveler 

North Hollywood Shootout

The Deal: More than 20 years into their career, Blues Traveler looks to find a new side to its music.

The Good: Blues Traveler hit the ground running back in the late '80s with a sound that appealed to jam-band and blues fans alike. They started getting a bit commercial/popular and decided to go in a direction that de-emphasized the harmonica playing of John Popper and focused on the songs themselves. For the most part, that approach bombed. Much like Bridge and Truth Be Told before it, the band's last album, 2005's Bastardos!, was anything but memorable. With the 10-song North Hollywood Shootout, the band continues on the songwriting-first path, but allows themselves to find more melody and hooks. Funny thing is, this time around, it works. The album opens with the heartfelt "Forever Owned" which focuses more on the vocal range and power of Popper. "You, Me and Everything" has an upbeat, hippie vibe to it with a ripping harmonica solo incased within. From slow grooves to up-tempo rumblers, the band shows that they haven't given up and they still have some good songs left inside. They even have some guest spoken word by Bruce Willis ... odd, but entertaining.

The Bad: The only thing bad is that they didn't release an album like this years ago when they first started changing their style. "Borrowed Time" felt like the one weak track on the disc – basically Popper and a piano that seemed a bit out of place.

The Verdict: Best album these guys have put together in years. Fans who have dropped off over time may want to check this one out.

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