The Workshy (Self-Titled) Review

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Former Ames jam band The Workshy moved to Colorado a few years ago, and have been keeping busy playing gigs, teaching music lessons, learning jazz, and, as of late, putting the final touches on their new self-titled album while preparing for an extensive tour.

Their self-titled new album really shows them flexing their jazz muscles, but never at the expense of the songs themselves. The guys can clearly play, but they’re good about choosing their moments, and they’re not afraid to throw in the occasional funk workout or straight-ahead rocker.

The Workshy are probably most often compared to Phish, and there’s certainly elements of that kind of jam-minded exploration here, but in tunes such as “Downey Rides Again” and “Melvin’s Moldy Joe,” you get flashes of Hot Rats-era Frank Zappa, only funkier.

And boy do these guys get funky. The opener, “Olive Trees,” has a sax solo that wouldn’t be out of place on a James Brown record, and the follow-up, “Aye Papi,” begins with straight up porno funk wah guitar.

Instrumentally, The Workshy are at the top of their game, with bass breakdowns thrown by bassist Jiho Han in the middle of “Aye Papi” and “Sing the Body Electric,” (which sounds sort of like an outtake off of Jeff Beck’s Blow by Blow), and fusion-esque keyboards all over the album.

The gang vocal chant of “Kool Cup” is also a highlight, and a probably crowd singalong, but the jewel of the album is the final track, “Astray,” which begins with a long instrumental section jumping from reggae breakdowns to frenetic, prog rock guitar squiggles to Pink Floyd lushness without breaking a sweat, and contains one of the best lyrics on the album: “Every adventure begins by you going astray.”

The Workshy have gone astray for this self-titled mini-opus of groove, and have come back hungry for more.

They play in Ames at DG’s Tap House on Sunday, Oct. 2, as part of their tour supporting this album.

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Bryon Dudley is a writer and musician from Ames. He has written about music and other topics for a number of local publications and blogs. When not playing music and putting out albums with groups such as Strong Like Bear, Liana, and Rockets of Desire, he is helping other Iowa artists record their music at his studio, The Spacement, and releasing it on the Iowa label he co-founded, Nova Labs. He has a tattoo of an aardvark and is adjusting to bifocals.