Somewhere during his life, guitarist Joe Evans got the bug for the blues. With no vaccine available Joe decided to nurture this infestation by teaming up with drummer Brenn Beck, who also sings and plays harmonica. Together they formed Left Lane Cruiser, a duo that serves up a gritty sound that, by their own admission, is strongly influenced “by the sounds of the north Mississippi hill country.” Having not sojourned to that particular locale, or even the state, I’m going to take their word for it.
Left Lane Cruiser recently recorded Slingshot, their debut album, at Tempel Recording, and the result is astounding. As fitting the music, they went with a live-style recording with very few overdubs. The loose, raw feel is perfectly executed with the ratty guitars, the massive Bonham drum sound and the often distorted vocals all coming together to create a chaotic frenzy of blues-driven noise.
But not your normal blues. That north Mississippi hill country must be full of shade, as the music has a dark and dangerous edge. Slingshot is a great example of what this band has to offer, with an aggressive southern rock foundation of messy guitars, massively distorted vocals, dirty slide guitar, trashy drums and a balls-to-the-walls pace. There’s no artificiality here; it’s all very real and full of dirt and grit, which gives it an undeniable appeal. To say that the majority of the songs share this same formula does them a great disservice, because through the blistering slide solos and grungy, scattered vocals and booming drums there is quite a bit of variety and strong songwriting. And it’s safe to say that, unless you are lacking a pulse, most of the 12 songs will evoke a solid, steady stomp from your feet. Not a polite tap, mind you, but a full-out toothpick-in-the-teeth stomp.
But it’s not all about mud and distortion. “Rollin’” has a clean(er) guitar sound and clear vocals that simmer to a contrasting mega-heavy drum part, while “Kentucky Fried Dickin’” is finger-picking against a warm and fuzzy harmonica. And I dare say that “Sleep Will Mend” is more rock than blues, throwing in what sounds like a theremin for unexpected coloration.
With a soul and style that sounds older than their pictures portray, Left Lane Cruiser have created some very genuine songs on Slingshot. What amazes me is that the guitar playing is so complete and the drums so full that it takes a few songs to realize that there is no bass guitar – but I’ll forgive this one trespass because the stew is so tasty. Pick this one up at Wooden Nickel and Borders and get your own bug for the dirty blues.