The Dirty Dozen
George Thorogood & The Destroyers
Any musician who names his band The Destroyers and was inspired by, among others, Elmore James, Bo Diddley and Howlin' Wolf has got to be loved by anyone who owns a bike.
On this latest effort, The Dirty Dozen, George still wants us to have a good time. This project compiles 12 Thorogood songs, the first 6 of which are newly recorded and follow the usual GT format of good time boogie, borrowing lines, and riffs from classic blues songs and the rest of the band laying down a solid rhythm section. Nothing wrong with this-there are tons of classic blues songs out there and it's always good to hear them updated once in a while. After all, Led Zeppelin and many others built a career around this. Standouts are a re-working of Willie Dixon's Tail Dragger and Bo Diddley's Let Me Pass. In fact, playing this song at loud volume could lead to a speeding ticket. Trust me on this.
George programmed this project like an actual vinyl record album (remember those? They're back!), so songs 7-12 are like a "Side Two" and consist of previously released tracks. The highlights are two Howlin' Wolf songs-Howlin' For My Baby and Highway 49. This is beer-drinkin', pool shootin', good-time road house music (and Lord knows, George has done many a drinkin' tune). If you're riding, both are guaranteed to put a goofy grin on your face, but who cares? If you're averse to wearing that crazy-fool look on your face, you are hereby forewarned.
Big Legal Mess/Fat Possum
When Minneapolis octet Chooglin' hits your speakers, it'll be like a classic rock all-you-can-eat buffet. There's a whiff of Blood Sweat & Tears and Deep Purple, a taste of Mountain and MC5, a James Gang aroma and essence of Creedence and Black Oak Arkansas. It's simmered in R&B; and best served loud. Why haven't we heard of these guys before?
Chooglin'-which basically means "to party"-officially debuted in 2005. Their press for Sweet Time, their third album, proudly proclaims them to be past winners of a cover band contest in which they performed the entire Stones' Exile on Mainstreet album.
Brian Vanderwerf and Jesse Tomlison provide the Skynrd-like guitar firepower. The three trombone and trumpet horn section has obviously studied their Memphis music book well. Add in bass and drums and you have a potent mix of rock and roll that one rarely hears these days-accomplished musicians who can actually play, sing, and write really good original songs. Flat out rockers like Take Your Sweet Time and Airport Bar easily segue to a ballad like Nexium of Interest and Nothing to Show, a slow blues burner wherein the horn section lays down a New Orleans funeral procession march.
The production is sometimes a bit murky in places, but that only lends to the intimacy. After all, this ain't the dribble of highly-polished pop music. It is one of those albums that keeps getting better with every listen and we can only hope to hear more from this band soon.
I See Hawks in L.A.
Big Book Records
When country music meets up with rock and roll, interesting things happen. Bands like The Byrds, Poco, Flying Burrito Brothers, Buffalo Springfield, Pure Prairie League, The Eagles, and others too numerous to mention, all found that sweet spot between country and rock. If you remotely liked any of these bands, you'll love I See Hawks in L.A.. Mind you, this band doesn't do the slicked up sound for what passes as modern Nashville country these days. ISHLA is another in a long line of genuine Southern California bands to continue mining the Gram Parsons stake. Hallowed Ground is their fourth album and it is excellent.
The band hails from the Echo Park area of L.A., right there in the shadows of Dodger Stadium. And these boys know how to play. Band members Rob Waller (lead vocals, guitar), Paul Lacques (guitars, vocals), Paul Marshall (bass, vocals) and Shawn Nourse (drums), do a lot of songs about life on the road-something we as bikers can relate to.
Aided by some very accomplished pedal steel and fiddle. One listen to songs like Yolo County Airport, Getting Home Tonight, and especially Highway Down, and you'll be firing up that your chrome machine and heading outta town. The lyrics are easily as good as anything Springsteen has written in describing the lure of the open road. And the haunting Good and Foolish Times stands right up there with the best Nashville has to offer, maybe better even.
I can't wait to see these guys live. If country music floats your boat prepare for the high tide.
Flashback Of The Month
Feats Don't Fail Me Now
OK, I'm willing to go out on a limb here, Little Feat's 1973 effort, Feats Don't Fail Me Now, is one of the best rock and roll records ever made.
Before his untimely death in 1979, singer/songwriter/guitarist Lowell George and the boys made some awesome music and all of their albums are must-haves. Lowell and Roy Estrada (bass) were alumni from, among others, Zappa's Mothers of Invention. But Little Feat was a whole new thing and they won over critics and began slowly building a cult following from coast to coast. This album is epic road music, practically made (unintentionally perhaps) for an extended motorcycle trip-or at least a blast out to some country roads.
LF's music conjures up a lot of southern imagery, some of it sultry and some of it silly. Their music is difficult to compare to other rock bands because they don't fit neatly into any category. Just listen to a song like Oh Atlanta, which evidences some of the tastiest slide guitar and boogie woogie keyboard work ever committed to disc. If you read these pages, you already know bikes and bar music go together and this band, was one of the best. Not Evo good-Panhead good. In fact, this album is a good argument for why some people still hang onto their vinyl records. Every track is stellar, and Rock and Roll Doctor, Down the Road, and Spanish Moon sound just as good today as they did then. The hallmark of a great song is when you don't want it to end and that's the way it is with the 10-minute medley Cold, Cold, Cold/Tripe Face Boogie. It starts out in 1st gear, but hits the rev limiter half-way through. At this point it might be a good idea to check your speedometer. Little Feat would go on to make more fine albums, even after Lowell's demise. But this one was as good as it gets.