Don't be distracted by George Hunter's voice. A hickory-smoked, holy-rolling Jeremiah Bullfrog rumble, his raspy growl makes you believe he was born to sing soulful blues pleas like 'Whoa-hon't you lay... me... down by your fire?' in backwoods booze cans where fish are mounted on the walls. It's all the more remarkable coming from a dude who looks like he should be lining up for a Clap Your Hands Say Yeah show. But fixating on Hunter's voice makes you miss the real power behind the Chicago trio's debut LP: the rhythm section. Bassist Miguel Castillo's slinky, dirty-ass bass lines snake around Ryan Farnham's measured, cowbell-juiced percussion with effortless precision, transforming the raw blues-rock boogie of Catfish Haven from generic bar band to something fresh, visceral and hurtin'. Tell Me does flag near the tail end, with syrupy melodies that veer dangerously close to Hootie & the Blowfish territory, but thanks to smart production, most tracks here make you feel like you're at the Harlem Square Club with Sam Cooke or, uh, toking by a campfire with CCR.
Catfish Haven hit the Horseshoe Monday (September 11).