The Great American Road Trip is the new album from prog-jam-fusion band Hectic Watermelon. Led by guitarist/composer John Czajkowski, and rounded out by drummer Darren DeBree and bassist Harley Magsino, the album also features the violin talents of former Mahavishnu Orchestra and current Dixie Dregs member Jerry Goodman. As you might imagine, expect some fiery progressive jazz-rock here, filled with blistering guitar and violin trade-offs, as well as intricate and tasty rhythms. The overall sound is pretty organic and rootsy, much of which can be attributed to the amazing guitar textures from Czajkowski, who really has a well rounded style, as you can hear echoes of Eric Johnson, Steve Morse, Steve Howe, and John McLaughlin throughout his playing. "Sacred Watershed" is a testament to his talents both as a writer and player, a real gorgeous piece with some majestic chords and tasty lead lines. The band goes full-bore into fusion territory on "The Third Derivative of James Brown", a song that features some metallic power chords, blistering drum and bass grooves, and plenty of lightning guitar, guitar synth, and violin passages. Shades of the Dixie Dregs can be heard on "Bionic Hillbilly", with Goodman, guest guitarist Scott Lerner, and Czajkowski dueling to some fierce solos.
Other standout tracks include the avant-garde sounds of "Dreams of Concrete Jungles", the Mahavishu styled funk-fusion of "Subterranean Rapid Transit", the snappy hoedown that is "Steve's Stunt Double" (another Dregs influenced piece), the Frank Zappa /Steve Vai inspired vocal zaniness of "Twenty-first Century Visigoth", and the absolutely scorching "Bullets, Dice and 30 Megabytes", where Czajkowski rips into some stunning Steve Morse inspired fretwork. There's really no weak tracks here, so expect lots of fun and plenty of chops on The Great American Road Trip. My guess is these guys are only going to get better, as there is a wealth of potential shown here. It will be interesting to see if Jerry Goodman sticks around with Hectic Watermelon for the long haul, as it would give him something to keep himself occupied with while the Dixie Dregs remain on hiatus.
1. Sacred Watershed
2. The Third Derivative of James Brown
3. Bionic Hillbilly
4. F Street Fulano
5. Dreams of Concrete Jungles
6. Subterranean Rapid Transit
7. Layover in Hamemet
8. Stray Dogs Messaging Project
9. Steve's Stunt Double
10. Twenty-first Century Visigoth
11. Bullets, Dice and 30 Megabytes