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August 06

THE MEAT PURVEYORSCHAD REX AND THE VICTORSTANDSERIC LINDELL

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The Meat Purveyors
Someday Soon Things Will Be Much Worse
Bloodshot Records

Austin, Texas quartet The Meat Purveyors dabble with electrification as their devilish bluegrass retains its Texan twang and punk swagger. They reel through tunes like the comic "666 Pack" and the blazing, honky-tonk of "Fist City." Cherilyn DiMond pounds on the stand-up bass and hurls sweet harmonies into the mix. Singer Jo Stanli Walston wails or croons depending on the fervor of the song.

The band's interpretation of two distinctive songs gets a righteous makeover. Human League's insistent bass-and-synth ode "Do You Want Me Baby" gets turned inside out with the women pleading classic lyrics over the thrum of mandolin and guitar. What makes a song endure beyond cheesy testosterone-fueled rock and transform into a blistering bluegrass tune? If not the lyrics, then it's the serious musicianship and fiery vocal delivery on Foreigner’s "Hot Blooded" that overcomes the first impulse to laugh and reinforces the what-the-hell notion to sing along like Lou Graham lost in the flatlands of Texas.

The Meat Purveyors sidestep casting as a novelty by busting out darker tales like "Hanged Man" and tender ballads like "Snow in the Door." With lyrics near comic at times and weepy at others, the pace alternates between manic and misery. The results aren't for everybody, but are worthwhile for bluegrass fans with an edge. —Pete Dulin (posted 08/25/06)


 

Chad Rex and the Victorstands
gravity works fire burns
Mars Motors Records

Despite the fact that Chad Rex happens to be one of the finest musicians in the Midwest, he has never really been given the recognition in his hometown that he deserves (once, at a Pitch Music Awards show, he was refused entry despite the fact the he was one of the nominees — finally he told them he was with Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys, and was promptly ushered in). While it would be nice to think his newest album, gravity works fire burns would change all that, Mr. Rex is not one to fool himself, and that attitude is wound throughout all twelve songs here.

With titles like “Cities by Hotels” and “Mile Marker Town,” it’s not hard to feel the grit of back roads, or hear the mournful howl of far-away trains. These are simple, quiet songs that appeal to all us big-hearted saps that never seem to catch an even break, be it with wine, women or song. Well, O.K., Chad’s got the song-part covered, but you get the idea. Most of the tracks combine maudlin Country melodies with intelligent, poetic lyrics that could hold up all by themselves, and Chad’s back-up Victorstands are all fine musicians in their own right.

They only complaint here is that there is no “rock out!” piece. But that’s hardly much of one Anyone who’s seen Chad live knows he can make you stomp your feet as much as bring a tear to the eye. Any fan of good music should grab one of these hot and heavy albums while they’re around, and if you happen to run into Mr. Rex live…hail to the king, baby, hail to the king. —Brandon Whitehead (posted 08/25/06)


Eric Lindell
Change in the Weather
Alligator Records

What keeps some music from being just another product to be marketed is singer/songwriters who refused to follow suit. Alligator Records found such an artist in Eric Lindell, a “California-born, New Orleans schooled” musician the label signed last January. In April, Alligator released the first offspring of that partnership with Lindell’s Change in the Weather. Alligator didn’t do wrong.

The opening cut “Give it Time” brings on immediate appeal. Though sometimes artist comparisons don’t really say all that much, Lindell’s vocal musings remind some (including me) of Van Morrison. Though he doesn’t quite have Morrison’s range, Lindell is full of Caucasian soul and shares Morrison’s fondness for horn arrangements and female backup singers.

Lindell’s writing is simple, powerful and approachable, and on “Give It Time,” hopeful: Give it time/times that we live in/it’s easy to give in/but it won’t do no good/Give it time/things will get better/a change in the weather/it just might do you good.

There are a lot of surprises in Change in the Weather, all good, be it the roots rockin’ “Lazy Days” or the easy shuffle, horn-fueled, organ-seasoned R&B of “All Alone.” Reggae rhythms tickle the body in “Sunny Daze” and “It Won’t Be Long.” All through this CD there’s a nice balance of sounds from a collection of very good session players. The trumpet, sax, drums and organ have their say with the guitar more on the rhythm side. The one cut where Lindell gets real blues-basic is “Uncle John” as his guitar, with Chris Mule on slide, and Andy J. Forest on harmonica, lay down the hurtin’ chops.

If there’s a fault with this CD is that it’s very nearly over-produced. For a guy who honed his artistry playing live, this CD makes me wonder what Lindell is about on stage. That chance is coming: Eric Lindell will be playing Aug. 19 at the Boxcar of Blues Festival at Knuckleheads. It’s worth the journey. —Bruce Rodgers (posted 08/11/06)


 
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