Painkillers - Left Lane Cruiser & James Leg (Alive Naturalsound)
You might call this a quickie. A furtive collaboration by a Southern Fried two-piece and a disaffected keyboard-playing boy who's well beyond salvation. In and out like a honeymooner's doodle. Cruder than oil. You could dismiss it as an off-beat project, dashed off without care. You'd also be wrong and missing the point.
James Leg is the bullfrog voice and Fender Rhodes keyboard of the wonderful Black Diamond Heavies while his running mates are Left Lane Cruiser, the scuzzier-than-thou Southern blues-rock duo. The territory they've marked out is a collection of 12 covers by the likes of the Stones, Hound Dog Taylor, Led Zep, Bob Seger and Taj Mahal. They recorded "Painkillers" in a cold snap in a Tennessee church converted to an all-analogue studio. It's a buncha rusty slide guitar, swinging backbeat and smouldering organ. You can't bottle this shit for trying.
It smokes. Believe me. If you don't believe me, track it down. Yes, it's born out of the blues. You can't beat the blues but you can't do much new to it, either. It's songs like "Rambling On My Mind". Now, anyone can play "Rambling On My Mind" - in theory. But can they play it and make it sound like they the Hounds of Hell, or at least the licensing cops, are baying at the bar room back door? Can they shake down Hendrix's "If 6 Was 9" and make it sound like a police inquisition with rubber hoses and thick telephone books? Can they apply so much grease to "When The Levee Breaks" that Robert Plant's preening prancing and vocal over-delivery is just a barely repressed memory? You know where to get back to me...
The sound is heavy and hot. It might have been like the Antarctic outside the studio when these biys recorded but inside it was a furnace. The producton stops well short of the distorto fests the Black Diamond heavies seems to delight in but there's little added in thr way of rimmings. As should be the case. There's a bit of bass applied (courtesy the ubiquitious Jim Diamond) and some harmonica laid over the top but it's essentially about Left Lane Cruiser and James Leg getting down and having heavy fun.
You don't need a blow-by-blow account of each track. All of the above should be enough to convince you that you'll like this record or that time would be better spent listeining to your Eagles and America collections. Let's talk about "Sway", which might be the heaviest fun of all. Sure, it's leaden - like a sleeping tab. It sounds like a bleary 4.30am wake-up to get off that bar stool and get the fuck home. But it works like only a handful of covers of such an obvious song that I can recall. When it's time to step up, Freddy J IV holds back his lead break and that works so well in context that you'll be thinking it's time to drape scarves on your bedside lamp and rip into Keef's hash stash, post haste. Or just give this disc another spin.