alive naturalsound - The I-94 Bar
Dirty-ass R&B twisted into their own nasty, digging thing.
It's awarded five bottles of beer. Maybe more. I’m too busy listening and dancing and making the car dodge those gigantic Woollies trucks.
Fuck this is fun. There’s only two of the buggers, a drummer and a guitarist and yeah, I know. The White fucking Stripes. Boy they were over-rated, weren’t they? Yeah. They were. But The Bonnevilles are the genuine crumbly biscuit, all warm and fuzzy from the hearth. Hearth?
Not a “new” album as such but a compilation of favourite tracks, as nominated by former drummer Brenn "Sausage Paw" Beck, “Beck in Black” hangs together really well. Six of the 14 tracks are previously unreleased and a few others are re-mastered so there’s plenty of value here for glued-on fans.
For the uninitiated, Left Lane Cruiser is a duo (often augmented in the studio) from Indiana who play an eclectic brand of garage-blues with hillbilly and country undertones. Eight records in (four of ‘em on Alive Naturalsounds), they are currently Fredrick “Joe” Evans IV on guitar and vocals and Peter Dio providing the backbeat. When he’s not Left Lane cruising, Joe Evans is getting down and dirty in King Mud with Van Campbell (Black Diamond Heavies) and Parker Griggs (Radio Moscow.) Cos that's what families do.
There’s a place where dirty blues, soul and gospel intersect that many aim for but few get near. That James Leg lands in the middle drop-zone with the precision of a BASE jumper on a million dollar bet says you most of what you need to know about his latest solo record.
James Leg - aka John Wesley Myers of the Black Diamond Heavies and The Immortal Lee County Killers - is the bona fide son of a preacher man from Port Arthur, Texas. Armed with a baritone that could knock down a brick wall from 20 paces and a Fender Rhodes, he’s unleashing his third solo album (the last with label mates Left Lane Cruiser in tow.) It’s in similar vein to what’s gone before, but this time with a touch more variety.
Let me start by saying I have been a Black Diamond Heavies devotee since I first heard a bootleg recording of their first album ‘You’re Damn Right”’ way back in 2005. When the latest album by James Leg (aka John Wesley Myers), vocalist, keyboardist and one half of that band turned up for review, I already knew what I was about to hear.
This is without doubt some of the rawest soul/blues/punk rock ‘n’ roll and coolest Fender Rhodes electric piano playing you’ll ever hear, along with the dirtiest Whiskey-smoked growl that has ever been put to tape. Yes, folks, this album is a winner. It’s dirtier and louder than most other things, and just fucking awesome. It’s the future, the past and present, all rolled up into a tight joint, ready to smoke, get high and just rock the fuck out. There are no disappointments here.
Here are two messages to all those lazy smartarses that say: 'The '70s are back'. Firstly, they were just the '60s on steroids. PLus a few other things. Secondly, they never went away. Like many bands with smarts, Buffalo Killers reach back 30+ years to source their reference points. The point of difference for them and those other smart acts is how well they nail their flag - freak or otherwise - to the mast.
Whether the label finds them or the bands are now lining up at the door proffering their latest recordings, matters not a zot. Alive Naturalsounds has firmly established itself as the Los Angeles-based home for America’s legion of early-to-mid ‘70s styled hard rock acts and Mount Carmel are its latest recruits.
If you can imagine a soulful, bluesy engine room with guitar that has a tone thicker than your great aunt's cankles, you're halfway to getting a grip on the sound John The Conqueror shoots for. Named after a psychotropic herb rather than a dead King of England and with members drawn from the Mississippi Delta, Philadelphia and parts in-between, this power trio hits their intended mark with accuracy, more often than not.
The first record I ever reviewed was "Kill City". That was back in 1977 for Self Abuse fanzine. I wish I had a copy of the article so I could compare how I felt then and how I feel now. I wrote that review because everyone I knew was slagging this off at the time. West Coast bland was the popular consensus. I didn’t agree and I wanted it down for the record.
If live albums are often dismissed as the preserve of bands fresh out of ideas and with nothing else to release to hoover more money from their witless and obliging fans, it’s time to re-assess that call. In fact, Radio Moscow’s barn-busting, sprawling opus screams out for a re-think.
Packaged as a double LP or single CD, the all-too-obviously titled “Live in California” was recorded over two nights in 2015 at The Satellite theatre in Los Angeles. It’s the sixth album and first non-studio release by this Iowa psych-power trio who have toured with the likes of Nebula, Pentagram and Joe Bonamassa since 2007.
Radio Moscow’s “thing” is pretty easy to get your head around: Meandering but economical psychedelic guitar jams wrapped around bluesy vocals. Loud and comparatively clean with a dash of funk in the bottom end.
Never underestimate rock and roll’s ability to look inwards, and backwards, to re-heat its own bones in an attempt to sound new. Cue Lonesome Shack, who hail, geographically if not spiritually, from the flanellete shirt and trucker cap American frontier of its North-West.
After the run of great records with The Solution, Powertrane and The Hydromatics, Scott Morgan thought it was time to make a solo album. Thus the former singer and guitarist of the legendary Sonic's Rendezvous Band (and even before that, The Rationals) gathered around him some of the most respected musicians of the Motor City and pulled out an album that oozes black music and emotions out from every note.
If James Leg's record sounds uncannily like the guy who sings for the Black Diamond Heavies it's because he's John Wesley Myers of that same band. "Solitary Pleasure" dips into common musical paint pots (bluesy keyboards, greasy soul and raucous garage), mixes in a bit more pop and splatters the lot over a wide canvas.
There’s something special about a gutsy and compelling female vocalist fronting a hard rock band when it’s done right. Canadian band Sulfur City tick all those boxes.
Sulfur City’s bold, bluesy and soulful sound is a perfect fit for the Alive Naturalsound stable which has carved a market in the rootsy hard rock space. They’re the label’s first female-fronted act which was a surprise. .
Hailing from Ontario, the band’s focal point is ex-truck driver and bartender Lori Paradis, a flame-haired vocal powerhouse and electric washboard player (!) whose voice will knock you flat at 20 paces. “Talking Loud” is an attention-getting debut record overflowing with blues-boogie and soul goodness.
These two discs were each made (mostly) by a two-piece band, drums’n’guitar; and vox and guitars, respectively. They’re both something I wouldn’t have believed possible: successful two-person rock’n’roll that sounds fantastic. Each album does have a few other elements, but they’re precious few and … and again, I wouldn’t have believed it, but … you don’t really miss the others that much. Why?
In King Mud’s case, the songs and the delivery gain, hold and manipulate your attention; their two covers (you should be familiar with at least one) taken over by the Mudders to such an extent they may as well have written it themselves.
King Mud are Van Campbell from the Black Diamond Heavies and Freddy J IV from Left Lane Cruiser. They’re full-on rock’n’stuff, the kind of busy guitar which tells the story, shoves the song forward and devil the details. There’s a distinctive ‘70s American style to the Mudders, but you can clearly hear innumerable UK influences as well.
That this would be very good was a no-brainer. Van Campbell from Black Diamond Heavies and Freddy J IV from Radio Moscow in the same band? Yes, please.
This is raw blues with a dash of soul which is no surprise considering the principals’ main bands.. As you might expect, the band format (it’s not quite a duo - there is a bass player, probably added in post-production) strips it back to basics.
DM3 are from Western Australia and make peerless powerpop. If you didn’t know that already here’s another chance to catch up.
Chances are you do already know that DM3 are Dom Mariani and (mostly) Pascal Bartalome on drums and Tony Italiano on bass. With surnames like that it’s no wonder Italy adores them as much as Berlusconi loves bunga bunga parties. You could think of DM3 as a musical version of the family-sized Neapolitan pizza: Chunky pieces of melody on a solid base of guitar - and easy on the cheese.
If you listen hard enough it will be apparent that it’s all in the hooks. Chronologically-speaking, Dom assembled this band after the ‘60s pop of The Stems and the even sweeter pop of The Someloves. Stylistically speaking, DM3 sits somewhere in-between them both.
No, I’ve never heard of them either. Dirty Streets are an assured, big sounding, thumping rock outfit from Memphis whose style of music I normally run a mile from. But “White Horse” is a compelling listen, if you can manage it in between bopping around the room.
See, there’s a sense of joy and excitement pouring out of Dirty Streets. They love playing, and there’s a real freshness to them. The production, recording, mixing and mastering is damn fine, too. It’s really up-front and vivid.
Back in the actual ’70s I think I was well and truly horrified by many of the bands everyone else seemed to love; that Dirty Streets can get me to revisit this terrain, and have me interested enough to want to hear more is high praise from this grumpy old goat. Perhaps it was just that I kept hearing the plod-plod of it all, the absurd pompous prattery more clearly than those around me …