The New York-based band Blues Traveler pays homage to a particular brand of music in its moniker, but the name "Hybrid Traveler" would be more accurate - if less appealing to ear and imagination. Rock, R&B, '60s psychedelia, jazz and folk, even a dash of reggae and a dab of doo-wop, spice the Blues Traveler sound.
Yet more essential to the band's originality are John Popper's incandescent harmonica (or harp, in blues terminology) and distinctive vocals. And Popper is excellently abetted by Chan Kinchia's eclectic guitar, and energetic bass and percussion from Bobby Sheehan and Brendan Hill.Popper's high-pitched harp stitches together the songs on the group's eponymous debut album, hinting at the blues and something more. Most of the music, especially early in the set, isn't what you'd call near-kin to the lugubrious delta blues most of us associate with the genre - "100 Years," for instance, is closer to John Sebastian folk; "Crystal Flame" recalls the flower-child imagery of the late '60s.
But as the tracks flow by, blues-rock takes root. "Warmer Days," opening with a growly harmonica, sassily rejects any of the good points ascribed to winter. And "Alone/
Sweet Talking Hippie" is an outstanding jam. With Popper's vocals taking on a Bob Seger hue, the medley builds from a quiet lament to an insulted protest and finally evolves into an out-and-out barn-burner.- Blues Traveler is to perform at Salt Lake's Zephyr, a private club, on Wednesday, Feb. 27. The group also has an incidental role in director Oliver Stone's new movie "The Doors," which opens Friday. The group is in the background during a park scene.