Jason Ricci & the Bad Kind, “Approved By Snakes” (Ellersoul Records)

It’s a small wonder that Jason Ricci decided to put a coiled snake on the cover of his latest release. The best songs on the veteran bluesman’s new album, his first with the backing band the Bad Kind, come when Ricci lets himself slither and hiss.

Album opener “My True Love Is A Dope Whore” is a perfect example. Ricci spends a good bit of the track in a Waitsian grumble, floating over a slow rolling, black water groove. His slow and easy delivery brings to mind a cottonmouth luxuriating on top of the water. Like that critter, he seems to be in no hurry to get anywhere as he comments on junkies suffering from something a little more inconvenient that an arid tongue for a leisurely eight-and-a-half minutes.


Even after Ricci slinks away from the cool and shady sound of his more measured tracks to the hot, radiating pavement of harmonica jams like “I Got Cleaned Up,” his delivery remains positively serpentine. Ricci litters the album with sibilant sounds, stretching out every consonant until even the hard ones carry a bit of a hiss. And he uses that sound to tell stories of people who would rather not be tread on. Not because they’ll bite, mind you, but because they already have enough problems as it is.

That’s not to say that the album is all menace and misery lying in wait. Ricci has been around long enough to know he needs tracks that will make an audience want to move. Cuts like “Disconnect” and the left-field cover of Die Antwoord’s “I Fink U Freeky” are sure to get a crowd stepping. Just watch where you place your feet.