In my case, it’s usually several hundred guitar picks of various shapes and sizes, every consecutive month’s issue of Guitar Player and Vintage Guitar magazines for as long as I’ve been at whatever location I called home, and myriad screws/knobs/ jacks/switches/bits of old solder that likely aren’t functional in any way. But most of all, there’s that stack of great CD’s that got shoved somewhere stupid, fell behind the dresser or otherwise wandered off into the great unknown- only to be found amidst the wreckage that is “the big move.”
So what else is a hapless “music writer” type to do but bring a few of these formerly lost bits of musical enjoyment to light, in hopes of turning someone on to an artist that they may have missed by a blink in the ever evolving mess we refer to as “popular music.”
Cry Of Love: Brother
Sometimes bone-simple, straight ahead riff-rock is the only thing that will fit the bill, and it’s hard for me to think of a band that did it better than Raleigh’s own Cry Of Love back in ’93. Maybe they were a bit ahead of the curve when it came to the “retro” rock thing, but to my ears bands like Jet and Wolfmother simply pale in comparison to the stripped down, mean as a snake thump that these guys tracked live (including vocals!) at Muscle Shoals Studios well over a decade back. Singer Kelly Holland summoned all the guts and soul of Bon Scott, Paul Rodgers and Steven Tyler into a veritable air-raid siren of his own, and guitarist Audley Freed (who went on later to join the Black Crowes) laid it down with swagger and formidable chops, let alone one of the fattest Stratocaster/Marshall tones set to tape.
No, you won’t find much in the way of thoughtful, introspective lyrics and subtle ... anything on Brother. But you will get a large dose of good old-fashioned “rawk,” especially on tunes like the AC/DC meets Mother’s Finest thud of “Gotta Love Me” or the crunching shuffle (complete with a false start from the drummer) of “Bad Thing,” which featured COC’s Pepper Keenan on rhythm guitar. Maybe not a “must have” album, but well worth the bucks if you happen to come across a copy in your local music shop.
Jeff Black: B-Sides and Confessions Volume One
On the other hand, there are guys like Jeff Black that for all practical purposes look like the kind of gigantic rock and roll roadie that could snap you in half like a twig, but can write tunes that pack huge emotional wallop and substance. You’ve likely heard “Same Old River” covered by Sam Bush (among several others) at some point, and that’s just the tip of it.
Armed with a soulful rasp somewhere between John Hiatt and Marc Cohn, Black digs in deep from the start of B-Sides and Confessions Volume One with the powerful and sparse opener “Slip.” The lyric about “...clarity lives in a light house/on a hill outside of town/she don’t come to see the poor folks at all...” is just one evocative image among many to be found on this CD. “Sunday Best” serves up another gorgeous story, this time dealing with mortality and remembrance, again chock full of exquisitely penned snapshots of the basic human condition. Black isn’t shy at all in describing exactly how we deal with the things that come our way, ugly or graceful. Anyone in need of a stout dose of music, and truth, from a remarkable singer/songwriter will find all they need and more on this one.
Del Amitri: Some Other Sucker’s Parade
The soft spot in my heart for this band takes up a lot of room in my chest, and yeah, maybe they fall into the “guilty pleasure” category. But I just don’t care- this is still one beautifully crafted “pop” album in the absolute best sense. Most of material revolves around the many pitfalls of love, drowning your sorrows in a bottle, and a general sense of feeling a little sorry for oneself — but it’s always delivered with an endearingly self-deprecating sense of humor. The title track is a picture perfect example of this, with the last chorus stating “... if the road of sin is the one I’m taking/I ain’t gonna stray/’til the clouds go rain on some other sucker’s parade ...”
C’mon, that’s good stuff.
But beyond the humor and sarcastic wit is a great band, perfect arrangements, stunning vocals and production values easily on par with another personal fave, Spilt Milk by the equally amazing (and equally criminally overlooked) collaboration of pop geniuses called Jellyfish. Del Amitri’s catalog has much more to offer than that one radio hit they scored in the 90’s, “Roll To Me.” And no, they’re NOT the band responsible for the insipid theme from television’s Friends. That was the Rembrandts. If you can snag a copy of Some Other Sucker’s Parade, waste no time: put the disc in your car’s CD player, cue up track five (“Medicine”) and turn it way, way up. Extra points for singing along at the top of your lungs like you actually know the words.