Tag Archives: Southern Rock

Amazing Rhythm Aces: Stacked Deck / Too Stuffed to Jump

AmazingRhythmAces_StackedDeckTooStuffedToJumpTerrific mid-70s Memphis country, rock and soul back in print

The U.S. Top 40 is a fickle mistress that rewards one-hit wonders of many stripes. One such stripe is the talented band with a long history and deep catalog who, due to complications of label politics, promotion, distribution or simply the herd-like buying patterns of the record buying public, only manages to strike a single hot iron. Such was this superb Memphis band, whose 1975 debut single, “Third Rate Romance,” cracked the Top 20, but whose follow-ups fell shorter. They had better luck on the country charts, where their soulful sound produced two more hits, “Amazing Grace (Used to Be Her Favorite Song)” (#10 country, #72 pop) and “The End is Not in Sight (The Cowboy Tune)” (#20 country, #42 pop). All three appeared on the group’s debut and sophomore albums, which are anthologized here along with the non-LP B-side “Mystery Train.”

Despite their Knoxville roots, the Aces were a Memphis band, with southern roots stretching across country-rock, blues, soul, funk and gospel. Their debut album is filled with solid originals and a superb R&B cover of Charlie Rich’s “Who Will the Next Fool Be?” The next year’s follow-up followed a similar formula, and once again cracked the country Top 40. The band was effective in playing everything from straight country to gospel harmonies, swampy funk, southern rock and even ragtime and progressive changes. Real Gone’s reissue improves upon Collectors’ Choice’s out-of-print two-fer, with fresh remasterings, a 12-page booklet featuring full-panel album covers, lyrics, credits and new liners. If all you know is “Third Rate Romance,” this is a great opportunity to hear the fine albums behind the hit. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

The Amazing Rhythm Aces’ Home Page

Jimbo Mathus: Blue Light

Country, soul, blues and rock with a Southern twist

Jimbo Mathus – most famously known as a founding member of Squirrel Nut Zippers – has long championed a bushel of roots music, including gypsy jazz, pre-war swing, ragtime, blues, country, folk, string band, soul and southern rock. With last year’s Confederate Buddha and this year’s new six-song EP, he’s meshed (or perhaps mashed, if you consider the southern origins) his influences into a rock-solid brew topped by soul-searing vocals. The title tune opens as a confessional before the downbeat kicks it into Allman Brothers territory for a chase down a stretch of blue highway. The ‘70s vibe continues with the electric piano and guitar of “Fucked Up World,” unloading the fed-up lyric, “I’m tired of living in a fucked up world / I with the man would get his shit together.” Mathus’ Southern roots thread throughout the EP, adding rustic soul to theChicago blues “Ain’t Feelin’ It” and rolling swampy waves under the garage rock “Haunted John.” At only twenty minutes it’s a short set, but a sweet one. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

Jimbo Mathus’ Home Page

Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires: There’s a Bomb in Gilead

Muscle Shoals meets Capricorn Records

Alabaman Lee Bains III debuts with an album that deftly blends blues, soul, country and rock. Bains’ bio mentions the conflicting inspirations of church music and punk rock, but he draws most directly from the southern rock and soul of Capricorn Records and Muscle Shoals. Though there’s some aggression in the electric guitars (and Jim Diamond’s Detroit mix), there isn’t the unbridled fury of modern punk. The upbeat tunes suggest a mix between Mitch Ryder, Iggy Pop and pre-punk garage rock. Bains’ church roots surface in spiritual vocabulary, a few testimonial vocals and the mondegreenian album title (drawn from the traditional “There is a Balm in Gilead”). Even the band’s name is homophonic, drawn from a mishearing of “glorifiers.” Bains wears his Southern roots proudly, singing of the summers and cities that made up his childhood, and reveling in the land and literature. The Glory Fires play with the confidence, tight grooves and practiced looseness of a band that’s piled up more miles than they’ve yet to roll onto an odometer. Though he’s lived in New York and commuted to Los Angeles, his music could only be rooted in the complex, conflicted, Saturday-night-to-Sunday-morning South that fuels incendiaries with its conservatism. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

Lee Bains & The Glory Fires’ Home Page

Patrick Sweany: That Old Southern Drag

Heart-stopping Southern soul from a Northern immigrant

Ohio native and Nashville immigrant Patrick Sweany makes rootsy sounds that are out of place on Music Row, but will be welcomed in the home of anyone who likes a side order of the ‘60s with their rock, soul, and blues. The album rolls through Southern soul, vintage rock ‘n’ roll and anguished R’n’B, dovetailing punchy production with memories of Delaney and Bonnie, Arthur Alexander and the throwback sounds of Marshall Crenshaw. The bass, drums and rhythm guitar bolster the melodic howl of Sweany’s voice; his singing is edgy, pleading, and emotionally raw from blue disappointment. The nostalgic “Rising Tide” hits a ‘70s rock groove that might have belonged to Bad Company, but the deep bass, funky horns, vamping organ and guitar figures of “The Edges” return the listener to the Memphis that Dan Penn laid on the Hacienda Brothers. The tour de force ballad “More and More” is given the Otis Redding treatment with hard percussive stops, while the acoustic plea “Frozen Lake” is gut-wrenching in the blue-soul of its romantic apprehension. Sweany is well-known as a guitarist and songwriter, and he bolster each accolade here, but it’s the deep well of emotion in every vocal that will make this record stick in your heart. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | Frozen Lake
Stream That Old Southern Drag
Patrick Sweany’s Home Page

Flynnville Train: Redemption

Rock-solid southern rock

This Indiana-bred country-rock band is a real throwback to the southern rock of the 1970s. The quartet is looser, wilder, harder and seemingly less-calculated than redneck-rock acts like Big & Rich and Gretchen Wilson, but they play to the same blue collar crowd. Their songs will strike a deep chord in a nation where political and business institutions seem to be at odds with the populace. The lead single, “Preachin’ to the Choir,” effectively expresses Joe Sixpack’s pent-up frustration without resorting to the divisive tropes of talking-head politics. It doesn’t pose any big solutions, but the opportunity to vent one’s frustration in a like-minded crowd, and in this case, an anthem-singing country-rock crowd, is quite cathartic.

There’s a nostalgic streak in the band’s songs, including the comforts of their childhood “Home,” and a satisfied recounting of their career in the optimistic “On Our Way.” They take you inside the legendary Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge in “33 Steps” (the title cleverly measuring the walk from the Grand Ol’ Opry) and to the track for the NASCAR-themed “Turn Left.” There’s hard-charging electric guitar twang on the upbeat tracks, but even when the band slows down for banjo, steel and mandolin additions, the bass, guitar and drums remain solid. There are songs of rowdy Saturdays (“Alright” and “Tip a Can”) and guilt-wracked Sundays (“Friend of Sinners”), love and sex. The latter, “Scratch Me Where I’m Itchin’,” opens with a great Johnny Winter-styled riff.

In addition to the original material, the band covers the Kentucky Headhunters “The One You Love” and closes the album with a strong cover of America’s “Sandman.” The latter, originally released in 1971, is repurposed to address America’s current military crises and conflicts. The song is played more heavily than the original, including a period-invoking electric sitar solo and a stinging guitar duel. The harmonies are sung with the power and stridency of CSN&Y’s anti-war songs, putting a serious end to an album that’s often lighter in topic. It’s a great way to end the album, and really shows off the group’s heartland grit, heart and soul. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

Flynnville Train’s Home Page
Flynnville Train’s MySpace Page

SwampDaWamp: Rock This Country

SwampDaWamp_RockThisCountryHeavy Southern party rock

If Southern Rock, Heavy Metal and Arena Rock had mated in the mid-1970s, SwampDaWamp would have been the musical offspring. Gig Michaels’ vocals are gritty, the rhythm guitars thick, the lead playing sharp, and the bass and drums powerful and heavy. There’s a party vibe on the band’s third full-length release, but the core is red, white and blue-collar American rock ‘n’ roll. That latter identity is most fully embraced in the anthems “American Man” and “Rock This Country.” SwampDaWamp’s American experience includes ladies, wild nights, and cathouses, but they also spend a few songs pondering the economically dispossessed and a woman’s troubled path to the brink of suicide. Social consciousness aside, the album closes with “Stoned,” a celebration of artists whose muse has been stoked by grape and grass. It may not have the poetic context of Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,” but it’s a good time, as is the group’s latest album. Now where’s the SwampDaWamp beer cozy for my PBR? [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | Lady
SwampDaWamp’s Home Page
SwampDaWamp’s MySpace Page

Wet Willie: Keep on Smilin’

wetwillie_keeponsmilinFunky southern rock and soul from 1974

Wet Willie hit simultaneous commercial and artistic high points on this 1974 album, their fourth of seven for the Capricorn label. The Mobile, Alabama band cuts a funkier, more gospel-inspired groove than its label mates, which included Southern rock standard bearers like the Allman Brothers and Marshall Tucker Band, and their songs are more lyrically focused and concise. Singer Jimmy Hall has a rich, punchy delivery that often soars in a preacher’s shout, and the backing vocals of the Williettes give the group the Southern edge of Stax and Muscle Shoals. The album’s single, “Keep on Smiling,” offers a lasting message of optimism with a memorable rhythm guitar riff, sweet harmonica solo and a backing choir that lifts the song to the heavens. Though it was the group’s only trip to the pop top ten, it was far from the album’s only jewel, as the opener provides a warm celebration of country life, and the James Brown horn funk “Soul Sister” gives the Williettes a chance to step up front. Hall also sings blue-eyed soul, such as the homespun ballad “Alabama,” and digs deep on the mid-tempo “Lucy Was in Trouble.” The group’s follow-up, Dixie Rock, continued in the same vein, and the pair of albums were issued as a two-fer. If you dig the studio works, you should also check out the group’s live album Drippin’ Wet for a taste of their jams. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]