After seven house-rocking albums for Alligator, Dave Hole moves to the Blind Pig label–America's other established blues indie–for this solid, if somewhat predictable, release. In certain respects, the journeyman Australian slide guitarist is comparable to stalwarts such as George Thorogood, since his discs are nearly interchangeable yet none disappoint. Both artists also rely heavily on well-chosen covers. The slide demon taps into tracks from obvious inspirations such as Elmore James, Slim Harpo, and Robert Johnson, along with rearranged tunes written by the far less obvious likes of Willy Deville ("White Trash Girl"), Ivory Joe Hunter ("Since I Met You Baby"), and even Buddy Holly ("Think It Over").
While subtlety isn't exactly his strong suit – especially live – it's also not what Dave Hole fans expect out of their Australian slide guitar slinger. The word "ferocious" best describes his over-the-fret, over-the-top technique, and what was merely intense on his studio albums gets kicked up a few notches in concert. Like George Thorogood, Hound Dog Taylor, or Rory Gallagher (whose vocal phrasing is also an influence), he's nailed his niche, best described as explosive Elmore James. Hole happily plays to his strengths without pushing the boundaries past where his fans comfortably expect.
With Under the Spell, Australian guitarist Dave Hole and his veteran backup band manage to lasso in all of the energy from their live concerts, while under the roof of a usually antiseptic recording studio environment. All but three of the 12 tracks were written by Hole and rank among his best work to date. Rocking through "Demolition Man" and delivering a sweet soul-blues ballad with "Don't Say Goodbye," Hole once again expresses his musical diversity with a flair. He manages to remain a true original while still feeding off of his major influences – people like the Rolling Stones, Muddy Waters, the Animals, Howlin' Wolf, and Muddy Waters. "Holding Pattern" rocks with a Stevie Ray Vaughan feel, and Hole's passionate vocals are a real treat on his cover of John Lee Hooker's "Run With Me."