According to his bio, Rod Hamdallah has been playing Atlanta bars and clubs since he was 16, which makes you wonder why it took him so long to come out with his debut EP. The five-song Think About It certainly sounds like something a seasoned veteran would deliver, it’s barreling garage-blues grooves and raucous energy tempered only by Hamdallah’s ability to craft soulful lo-fi hooks that would make Jack White proud. There’s plenty of power in his voice, but more so charisma, which lures you in and draw you smack into the whirlwind center of his dirty blues stomps and juke-joint rockers.
The lead title track makes for the perfect to place to start, it’s fist-pumping rhythms and five-alarm fire solos—not to mention Hamdallah’s intrepid growl—setting the listener up for the whiskey-fueled tempest that’s to come. That’s followed by the more even-measured and melodic “Carry You Home,” which features Colonel J.D. Wilkes of Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers on banjo and Wurlitzer piano, and finds Hamdallah toying with the idea of the resolute lover. “Ain’t nobody love like you I do / I wanna carry you home,” he wails over muted guitars and rolling drums, with no small hint of devilish mischief lurking in his voice. Elsewhere, “I Don’t Mind” is a snarling Black Keys-indebted blues rock romp, while “Take Me Back” successfully skirts the line between R&B smoothness and classic rock swagger.
But it’s the mesmerizing “Heartbeat” that lingers the longest here. The first couple of times I listened to the EP, I’ll admit to skipping over the track. Now I can’t enough of it. Replete with foot stomps, handclaps and an accordion-driven gypsy swing, the song forces Hamdallah to navigate over foreign terrain and he responds with his most arresting performance on the record.
To call either Rod Hamdallah or Think About It a surprise would be an understatement. I had zero expectations going into my first listen, and I came out the other side converted. This guy has got an ineffable quality about him, a rare ability to turn a simple blues riff into something sexy, rowdy and nasty. There’s something instinctive about it, yes, but it also requires a great deal of time and experience to develop (or maybe absorb is the better term). Either way, it’s clear that it’s taken Hamdallah some time to get here; I’m just glad he got started early.
- Moe Castro