ALBUMS OF THE MONTH:
The title track kicks off the album with a strong indication of what will follow. Yup, songs about trucks, drinking and ornery women, although not necessarily in that order.
Well I drive all over this country, roaming from town to town
When day is done I’m gonna have my fun I’ll pick ‘em up and put ‘em down.
I’ll flirt with some old waitress, try to push my luck.
But when push comes to shove I’m too tired for love ‘cause I’m too drunk to truck.
The song also unleashes Sludge’s secret weapons: Boston-based guitarists Duke Levine and Kevin Barry. Both have a sound pristine and precise, yet filled with character, Barry on the lap steel and Levine on the electric guitar. And I shouldn’t neglect bassist Jim Haggerty, who brings his own rockabilly cred from his role as bassist for Wanda Jackson.
Sludge sings of drinkers remorse on the amusing “I Got Hammered (Then I Got Nailed).” Haggerty’s walking bass line mimics the pounding that comes from a bad hangover as Sludge laments, “spent the next five days in jail, but the rest I can’t recall ‘cause of too much alcohol.”
I’m sure that there are two sides to every story, and “Hell Hath No Fury” provides Sludge’s perspective on a love gone wrong. “She lives to hurt me, she lives to make me mad,” he sings, “she loves to burn me, when I’m sad it makes her glad.” Ouch.
Sludge and crew bring out the country shuffle as on the swinging “Eight Would Be Great.” A few tracks later, the band cranks it up in fine Sun Records fashion on “If You Can’t Rock Me.” Levine, in particular, lets it fly with some magnificent guitar licks and solos.
The record closes with a mighty fine cover of Johnny Cash’s “Drive.” It is the perfect capstone to a release that showcases a classic sound with skill and flair. But don’t take my word for it. Bruce Springsteen recently stopped by to check out Sludge during a recent run of residency shows.
Audio Download: Roy Sludge, “If You Can’t Rock Me”
This Round Is On Me, by Maxim Ludwig and the Santa Fe Seven
My favorite musical discovery this year was LA-based Maxim Ludwig and the Santa Fe Seven. The band has the perfect combination of great songwriting and playing that is playful and loose. As we move towards the close of the year, Maxim and the Seven have just released a new ep that features his strongest songs yet.
“Stacy C’Mon,” the opening track is one that should be familiar to Twangville readers. Maxim was kind enough to share it with us earlier this year. I, for one, can’t get enough of it – from the catchy riff to the sing-along chorus, it has simply lodged itself in my head.
“Nothing At All” adds a bit of R&B shuffle to the mix, in large part courtesy of a soulful sax that joins the fray. Maracas give the song an extra flair, complimenting the wailing slide guitar. Ludwig leaves no doubt where he stands on the future of a relationship: “Between you and nothing, I choose nothing at all.”
The opening of “On Bunker Hill” teases with a mournful woman’s voice set against a somber synthesizer. When a piano joins the mix, the song builds into a majestic rocker reminiscent of the Band. The maracas return on “Red Eyes,” which has a restrained boogie beat that hearkens back to Little Feat.
Take a shot, this round is on me,” Ludwig sings on the rousing closer “From the Alley View.” I’ll join in with a toast to this ep and more great music to come!
Audio Download: Maxim Ludwig and the Santa Fe Seven, “Nothing At All”
Mannequin Man, Kingsley Flood (from the self-released ep Colder Still)
I’d forgotten how potent the Kingsley Flood live show was until I saw them light up the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge this past weekend. Although acoustic guitar and fiddle are part of their instrumentation, they are way more than a roots band. They pack their songs with an aggressive yet infectious edge. I’m lovin’ this track that reminds me a bit of the Violent Femmes.
Audio Stream: Kingsley Flood, “Mannequin Man”
Parade, Oldjack (from the self-released Maxi-Single)
The headline on Oldjack’s web site says “Old Soul Rock and Roll” and damn if that ain’t what they deliver. This is classic rock – think Joe Cocker, Leon Russell, the Rolling Stones and maybe even some Lynyrd Skynyrd – played to perfection. Lead singer Dan Nicklin howls while a bevy of female singers wail. Throw in multiple guitars, an organ and a rock solid rhythm section and you’re primed for a rock and roll revival.
Audio Download: Oldjack, “Parade”
One Guitar, Willie Nile (from the River House Records release The Innocent Ones)
“I’m a soldier marching in an army, got no gun to shoot but what I’ve got is one guitar, I got this one guitar,” sings Nile on this stand-out track from his latest release. It is a fitting lyric for an artist whose songs are filled with an unbridled passion for rock and roll. Rock on, Willie, rock on!
Audio Download: Willie Nile, “One Guitar”
Turn It Up Or Turn It Off, Harrison Hudson (from the Favorite Gentlemen Recordings release American Thunder)
There is some music, loaded with hooks and overflowing with energy, that is just tailor-made to be the soundtrack of any party. Put this one down on that list. The songs on Harrison Hudson’s latest have the feel of classic 1960’s rock and roll while maintaining a modern-day sound. And did I mention the hooks?
Audio Download: Harrison Hudson, “Turn It Up Or Turn It Off”
Westside Street, The Deep Dark Woods (from the Sugar Hill Records release The Place I Left Behind)
This quintet from Saskatchewan, Canada was a pleasant surprise at the recent Americana Music Conference. Their songs are like aural pictures, soundscapes regal yet forlorn. In the Robbie Robertson tradition, these boys prove that some of the best Americana comes from North of the border.
Audio Download: The Deep Dark Woods, “Westside Street”
Bite Your Tongue, High on Stress (from the self-released Living Is a Dying Art)
Let it not be said that they don’t know how to rock in Minneapolis. And High on Stress will be happy to prove it to ‘ya. The band’s latest serves up a healthy dose of Midwestern rock and roll, the kind that sounds better the louder that you play it. And I mean that as a compliment.
Audio Download: High On Stress, “Bite Your Tongue”
Says Lately, Scotty Alan (from the Spinout Records release Wreck and the Mess)
The Michigan native went to Los Angeles to record his latest release. Arriving in LA, Alan gathered an impressive group of players, including long-time Jackson Browne and Ry Cooder collaborator David Lindley and legendary Ian McLagan among others. The results speak for themselves, songs vibrant and pulsing with energy.
Audio Download: Scotty Alan, “Says Lately”
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.