Oct. 10 2012 03:21 PM

On debut album, local band offers up R&B-tinged pop


Old Tiger Love Have Mercy (self-released)

When I think of Old Tiger, the image that comes to mind is of an aging predator shuffling around the den in a pair of old-man slippers. He might have a hearty growl and some nice stripes, but he's not much of a hunter. Really, when it comes down to it, he's just a big ol' softie.

On their new album, Love Have Mercy, the local band offers up retro, R&B-tinged pop with sly guitar, moody organ, feel-good piano and tambourine-topped rhythms. While everything fits together fine, the band desperately needs some soul. Even as frontman Dustin Lothspeich sings about getting ripped on whiskey in the slow, bluesy "Head," he sounds like he doesn't want to ruffle any feathers.

Old Tiger recorded Love Have Mercy with the skilled local producer Mike Butler at The Lost Ark Studio, a spot that's become popular with folk and country types. The mix is refreshingly roomy, like the band recorded every song live. In the climactic opening track, "You Can't Do Better," they add horns and gospel singers—courtesy of The Martin Luther King Jr. Community Choir San Diego—giving the song a nice, soulful swing.

Too often, though, the album doesn't go far enough. While soul revivalists Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings infuse every note they play with heartbreak and passion, the guys in Old Tiger stay tediously calm and collected. In "Deliver Me," Lothspeich begs to hear from an ex-lover—"I can't stand the thought of you with another man"—but his tired, constricted voice isn't very convincing, especially when it's paired with drummer Eric Boone's half-hearted beat.

The band, who'll play at The Casbah on Friday, Oct. 12, starts to get somewhere in the final track, "Like a Woman," letting loose with some brisk, stormy, horn-driven funk. But even that little number could be a whole lot sweatier. Next time, Old Tiger might try stepping things up a  notch. Maybe they could get in the mood by covering "Fuck You" by Cee Lo Green. Then they'd really be saying something.

Email peterh@sdcitybeat.com or follow him on Twitter at @peterholslin.


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