It’s rare to hear a good old-fashioned rock guitar album nowadays. Shame
that a mediocre old-fashioned rock guitar album isn’t much consolation. This
one is more of the faded and feeble variety than vintage and venerable.
I also can’t fathom why most of the groups here either have distinct
Southern roots. Isn’t the film set in Vermont? I guess nothing says “Highway
Patrol” quite like a countrified, southern-style, deep-fried guitar riff.
With the exception of one piece of techno nonsense from some artist called
Bubbles – which evaporates before it gets warm – every track here is
straight from the barroom. Whether swaying to the side of laid back blues or
crunching rock, these are the sort of sounds that can only be fashioned by a
posse of heavy-handed plectrum wielders gathered around drum kit and cranked
It’s the Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top attitude without the chops. And I’m not
talking ZZ sideburns. Trooper With An Attitude is the opening cut from 38
Special, and somehow you get the feeling these jokers forgot to load their
pistols. Attitude is a good start but it won’t substitute for a killer chorus.
Attitude is also not lacking in the two tracks provided by The Unband. These
are the disc’s only nod to modernity, and sad evidence that combining neo
grunge with trad rock is not enough to extricate it from the morass of grunge
itself if it doesn’t have a decent song to hang onto.
The charmingly named Nashville Pussy also make a double contribution to the
slew of crude rock. The first of these is called Shoot First And Run Like Hell,
fine advice when you commit the crime of nicking the opening riff of Queen’s
Tie Your Mother Down and fail to do anything useful with it. At least Freddie
Mercury had his tongue firmly stuck in his cheek (one of the more polite places
it found itself no doubt).
A measure of relief can be found around the centre of soundtrack with the
mellower country blues of Southern Culture On The Skids and the Jack Grace Band.
Right in the middle is The Royal Fingerbowl’s Bad Apples, perhaps the lightest
track of all, yet the only one with real bite. A swinging rockabilly number with
a tang of soul and a sweetly irreverent fragrance this is the sort of Bad Apple
I can really get my teeth into.
Somewhere between the glamorous as granite aggressiveness and the lighter
ditties, are middling blues-by-numbers numbers such as The Corn Rocket, which
seems like it was produced to sound like a demo recorded in Elvis’s backyard
tin shed, and a paean of loyalty to a man’s first true love titled Second To
I think I might have figured out why these sounds are from the South. This is
an album to appeal to big men with big beards, bigger tattoos and even bigger
testosterone, driving equally big trucks all the way from Maine to Florida via a
detour to Texas. Still I’m not sure that even they would be overly impressed.
Too many of these tracks slide into the crevice of banality that lies between
extremes. Not classy enough to contribute anything worthwhile to the blues-rock
chronicles, nor wild or flash enough to personify the electricity in the
amplifiers. Trooper, arrest that guitarist! He’s soloing too slow.
Published March 21, 2002