In the Christian music industry, it's very rare that a jam band will spring up in its midst and make themselves a household name with fans across the country. Fans of Pillar within the last two or three years may have heard drummer Lester Estelle talk about the other band he has performed with. In 2000, Kenny Carter, Lester, and a trio of other friends came together to form the Lawrence, KS-based underground jam band known as Trump Dawgs. Their 2001 debut The Art of Crushin fuses together multiple genres including rock, funk, pop, r&b, hip-hop, jazz, and easy listening. It should sound more than obvious that this band is very diverse not only in style but also due to the fact that all of the members except for one caucasian are of African-American or Hispanic origin.
The Art of Crushin kicks off nicely with "Cold Day," a funk/rock jam about a man vowing his uncompromising love to a woman who has been broken-hearted one too many times in her past. Unfortunately, the mood of the album slows down profusely with the spoken-word song "The Last Straw." Fortunately, the tempo catches back up with the upbeat rock/funk vibe of "5:11," which is another love song, but hints at a spiritual lyric with the words "I'll build a palace like Messiah, and someday I will capture you and sweep you out of your dainty shoes."
A couple of instrumental breakdown interludes seem to be a setback for the album as they could have been extended to showcase all of the members' playing abilities. With instrumental solos taking place in the guitar-driven "Wishing Well" and "Cold Day," the interludes end up being the only weak point of The Art of Crushin. However, if you're looking for a full-length instrumental track, there is a hidden gem at the end of the album worth listening to. The soft ballad "Whisper" is one of those songs that flows well in a relaxed environment of a well-balanced conversation.
Though spiritual context is seldom on the album as a whole, the worship-tinged "Lullaby" breaks the mold with lyrics such as "Through the burn of the sky I call out to Your name" and "Hold me, my Savior, oh suspend me in arms that heal like the shade; hide me forever."
In retrospect, Trump Dawgs are a band whose sound is perfect for playing in a cafe-surrounded environment, a special event like a banquet, or for the individual who attempts to find a balance between relaxation and the urge to want to get up and move to the music. If bands like Dave Matthews Band and Bela Fleck and the Flecktones keep your interest musically, then I strongly encourage you to go to TrumpDawgs.com, the band's official website, and purchase your own personal copy of The Art of Crushin. This album is for the listener who has gotten too tired of the usual pattern of everyday rock and funk bands and are eager to try something different.- Review date: 8/12/05, written by Paul Portell
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