Truth & Salvage Company: Truth & Salvage Company


RIYL: Black Crowes, Georgia Satellites, Lynyrd Skynyrd

“Hail, hail, the gang’s all here / With our heads full of reefer and our bellies full of beer,” begins Truth & Salvage Company’s excellent debut album, but this six-piece outfit has more on its mind than the munchies; in fact, this sinewy 12-track collection wastes no time in getting down to the business of delivering a dirty boot to your rock-starved ass, and keeps it there for a solid 46 minutes and 12 seconds. Laced with Wurlitzer and Hammond organ, shot through with loud guitars and punchy drums, and recorded by guys with tons of hair and names like Walker and Smitty, Truth & Salvage Company proves you can still make a damn fine record with nothing more than a few chords and a healthy stack of amps.

As a songwriting unit, the band doesn’t really offer anything you haven’t already heard from the Loud ‘N Shaggy section of your record collection – it’s clear they’re no strangers to the Allmans/Skynyrd/Faces axis – but their rock swagger feels more like a real attitude, not a pose, and even if there are already a million songs about hard-livin’ dudes on the road and the slutty-yet-totally-respectable babes who love them, these guys cover the territory so well (and with so many plaintive, drawl-tinged harmonies) that it’s hard to question their logic. Why did bands stop making records like this, anyway? Can these guys maybe do something about all that Godsmack and Drowning Pool on the radio?

Anyone who loves rock & roll knows the road is littered with the corpses of bands with tattoo-ready logos and song titles like “Pure Mountain Angel,” and with a debut as hard to top as Truth & Salvage Company, odds are high that these guys will join that list sooner than later. In the meantime, though, this sure is fun to crank at full volume. (Megaforce 2010)

Truth & Salvage Company MySpace page

  

The Black Crowes: Warpaint Live (DVD)


RIYL: The Allman Brothers Band, Widespread Panic, The Rolling Stones

The Black Crowes hit the road in the spring of 2008 for a mini-tour that featured a nightly first set of the just-released Warpaint album being played in its entirety. This show from the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles captures the band on a hot night. Vocalist Chris Robinson has got his mojo working while then-new members Luther Dickinson (lead guitar) and Adam MacDougall are fitting right in.

Warpaint was the band’s first new studio album in eight years and the band is clearly energized. General consensus has it that the band’s new 2009 album, Before the Frost… Until the Freeze, has already surpassed Warpaint with an even stronger batch of tunes, but as drummer Steve Gorman has noted in a recent interview at Jambase.com, Warpaint was pivotal for the band in helping them regain their musical “compass.”

Tunes like “Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution” and “Evergreen” benefit from Dickinson’s charged leads and backing harmonies from Charity White and Mona Lisa Young. Guitarist Rich Robinson and drummer Gorman form the band’s backbone, laying down a Stones-meets-Zep vibe on “Wee Who See the Deep.” Solos by Dickinson and MacDougall surpass the studio performance to demonstrate why the Black Crowes have always been more about the live shows, though they generally turn out stronger and more cohesive albums than most jam bands. Dickinson moves to mandolin for the poignant “Locust Street,” with Chris Robinson pouring on the soul. As with the album, the highlight of the set is “Movin’ on Down the Line,” the first song written for the album, an uplifting psychedelic rock tour de force.

The second set is only six songs, but features stellar covers of Delaney & Bonnie Bramlett’s “Poor Elijah,” the Bramlett/Clapton gem “Don’t Know Why,” and the Stones’ “Torn and Frayed,” a tune tailor made for the Robinson Brothers harmony vocals. There’s also an extended work out on “Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye.” This short but sweet second set is what elevates the DVD from three to four stars, as the band really digs in deep. (Eagle Rock Entertainment 2009)

  

The Black Crowes: Before the Frost…Until the Freeze


RIYL: Gov’t Mule, North Mississippi Allstars, The Allman Brothers Band

Two albums in one, a CD purchase of Before the Frost… gets you a download code to receive the album’s companion release, …Until the Freeze. The download portion is available in both mp3 and FLAC formats. The vinyl version pulls all the material – 20 songs, 19 new Black Crowes tunes, plus a cover of the Stephen Stills-Chris Hillman song “So Many Times” – into a double album, but in a different running order.

Great playing, as always. Soulful singing. Strong material, even. The same lineup – still including Luther Dickinson, guitarist from North Mississippi Allstars – has been in place for a few years now (this’ll be their third album, if you include both the studio and live versions of Warpaint), and it shows on the seemingly effortless musicianship always on display on a Black Crowes joint. There’s a reason they’re one of the great American true rock & roll bands, and their hard-working professionalism is on display here. It’s a studio album that was recorded in a quasi-live setting, before an audience of fans at Levon Helm’s Woodstock, NY studio in late February and early March of this year, and the intimate setting really suits them. Standouts include “Houston Don’t Dream About Me,” the funky “Kept My Soul,” “Appaloosa,” with its simple and catchy chorus (and great guitar solo), “Last Place That Love Lives” and “I Ain’t Hiding” (this, despite its sorta-disco beat that’s a little hard to take over the course of the song).

Until the Freeze… is more acoustic and laid-back, with some fun country-ish numbers that really work, surprisingly, given the Crowes’ penchant for bluesy hard rawk workouts. The addition of fiddle and pedal steel, courtesy of utility session player Larry Campbell really countrifies things, and it’s hard not to wonder how the hardcore Crowes fans – which, let’s face it, are mainly there for the rocking guitars – are going to take to it.

Fans are going to love this record, but it’s not going to win them any new converts. Most people aren’t even going to be aware of this album. There’s no big hit single here, no “Jealous Again” or “Remedy” or “She Talks to Angels” or even “Hard to Handle,” the cover tune that put them on the map in the first place. And I’m sure that’s just fine for both the Black Crowes and their solid legion of fans. But I think they deserve more. (Silver Arrow 2009)

The Black Crowes MySpace page

  

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