Winter is here, thus it's time for many of you to put that toy in the garage. Sure, there are still riding days, but who wants to go out and play on two wheels with snow piling up on the road, or sub freezing temps? Yeah, you can dress up in your arctic polar bear suit and ride, but it ain't about man-ing up, it's about spending quality time with your machine, even if the kickstand is down. So, thankfully winter allows a little time to break out the chrome polish, or for those who've been good all year, those new Snap-On tools Santa left under the tree. All that's needed is some space in the garage (preferably heated) and the motivation to actually get up off the couch and move. Garages can be depressing places in the winter. But if you take your handy boom box out to the garage, you'd be surprised at how music can motivate you to launch into a new bike project...
Wheels represent ratings from 1 to 5 (best).
Cookin' In Mobile
Robert Cray Band
When this CD hit the mailbox, we instantly began looking for the accompanying bottle of barbecue sauce and a six pack of beer. Boy, the record label missed a great marketing opportunity here. So while holiday hangovers may be over by the time you read this, this album alone is good reason to fall off the wagon. It's basically a party in a box, sans beer.
Cookin' In Mobile was recorded at the historic Saenger theatre in Mobile, Alabama. Included along with the CD is a DVD of the concert plus the usual bonus material we've all come to expect these days. But it's the CD itself that is the real centerpiece. To call it a live greatest-hits album is like saying baggers are just motorcycles with storage space. Uh, well yes and no. Cray and his band play like they're still trying to get rent money-with conviction and intensity. "Right Next Door," "Smoking Gun," "That's What Keeps Me Rockin'," and a killer version of Chester Burnett's (aka Howlin' Wolf) "Sitting On Top of the World" are worth the price of admission alone. We heartily recommend this as background music for a winter afternoon wrenching on your garaged scooter. With a few brewskies on hand, a good time lurks right there in the toolbox.
Grand Theatre, Vol.1
Old 97's is a band hell-bent on bringing some good times back to rock 'n' roll. Critics call them "alternative country rock" but to our ears, it's just another version of Heaven's All Star Band-namely Elvis Presley, Bo Diddly, Johnny Cash, Buddy Holly, and Curt Cobain-all jammin' together. On their latest effort (their ninth album in fact) Grand Theatre Vol. 1, we finally have the answer to the question, "What would happen if the Stray Cats and the Smithereens re-formed?" To be sure, the Texas-bred Old 97's (named after drummer Murry Hammond's childhood fascination with trains) rock out, unabashedly displaying their love of tight power pop, rockabilly, and country. Lead singer Rhett Miller can sing pop love songs and rip it up with best of them when the tempo quickens. This is certainly their best outing and let's all hope they come to a bar near us soon.
Live on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise
Joe Louis Walker's Blues Conspiracy
Stony Plain Records
Listening to Joe Louis Walker is like walking into a raucous blues club in Memphis. Or New Orleans. Or Chicago, for that matter. One of the best bets on the contemporary blues circuit, he earned his stripes playing the San Francisco scene during the '60s where he ran into the likes of Mike Bloomfield, the Grateful Dead, Hendrix, and a whole host of soon-to-be blues superstars.
If you haven't heard of him, this album is a good place to start. The album's title refers to one of those high seas blues cruises where everyone presumably consumes copious amounts of the three "B's"-booze, BBQ, and the blues. The treats begin with "Slow Down GTO," a song where Joe introduces superstar keyboardist and session-player extraordinaire Mike Finnigan. (Christ, the man played on Hendrix's Electric Ladyland!). Johnny Winter joins the fray on the next track "Ain't That Cold." And so it goes, with guest artists on every cut, from Duke Robillard to Watermelon Slim (on a devastating version of "Sugar Mama") and plenty of others. Joe Louis Walker is the real deal and comes highly recommended for your listening and riding pleasure.
Flashback | Album of the Month
Bridge of Sighs
So how long has it been since you've actually heard this one? Upon its release in 1974, a scant four years after Hendrix's death, many thought it was the second coming of Jimi. Robin Trower has had to fight the comparison throughout his career, but the truth is, for those still pining away for Hendrix (as many of us did), Trower's Bridge of Sighs was a great gift. Not only does he invoke Jimi's Stratocaster playing technique, but his vocals even manage to sound like him. Trower rose to prominence via his early band, the Paramounts, and more notably Procul Harum. And while there are worse things to be compared with, Robin rode the Hendrix compliments to fame. A listen to his other albums bear witness to the fact that indeed, Bridge of Sighs was his sound.
Listening to "Day of the Eagle," "In This Place," "Bridge of Sighs,"-actually the entire album, as every track is awesome-will instantly invoke a sense of déjà vu and bring a smile to your face (depending of course on what you were doing when you first heard the album). It's been remastered a few times, but the album just plain works as an extended listening session. The songs soar, swirl, and flow together and certainly make for great biker music, even if you're just sitting there in the saddle staring at the garage walls. If you gotta download it, download the entire thing!