“Wisdom comes in funny ways/ Not in books or art or plays/ But falling hard and feeling pain,” sings professional life coach Harold Steinitz on his debut CD with his band Mysterious Blend. (Or maybe they’re actually called Harold and Friends. It’s a little hard to tell, but we do know that he plays retirement communities under the Blend name.) The combined side project of a number of non-musical professionals all drawn to New Orleans for their own personal reasons, this debut deals in the kind of stripped down bar-band styles you might imagine white collar guys in the later stages of life to be fixated upon, leaning heavily towards jazz in the arrangements but with a hefty touch of blues and strict pop construction. The good doctor doesn’t transfer that much of his day job over to the lyrics, usually: He grumbles about the boss, notices time rushing by, tries to make connections with women he doesn’t quite understand, takes time out to celebrate the relationships that do work in his life, and generally tries to live a respectable, honest life.
Of course, that’s what we all think we’re doing. The closest thing you’ll get to advice here is the possibly metaphorical instruction on “If I Were You” that we all pick up a good pair of walking shoes. Musically it’s also pretty generic: a little straight rockabilly on “Never Ever,” some good old New Orleans parade beats on “Crazy, Crazy,” straight St. Louis Blues on “Good Fool,” and a little New Orleans piano roll, Dr. John–style, on “Not Mine.” As a vocalist, Harold’s a pretty good piano player, tangoing all over “Complicated Woman” and unspooling expressive little runs on “Much More Than Time,” although the album’s MVP is guitarist Glenn Lazenby, who proves he can handle all manner of blues and jazz almost offhandedly. The band’s less successful when they tackle deeper states of bliss, which usually leaves them stuck in a soggy glop of folk-rock overshare on tracks like “Serendipity”; mostly, however, Mysterious Blend delivers the low-key good time they promise. Just don’t expect to take anything away from it.