As the only person with whom I’m personally familiar who knows anything about ska, Chad Beck should be writing this review. Alas, Chad has left town, and I’m stuck here with this CD which I like very much, but about which I know very little.
I know a little something about the band that used to be called Skavossas. Their release a couple of years ago sold out its first printing in a matter of days, something that no Fort Wayne band had ever done before, or since. And they’re a lot of fun live, too, or at least they were a couple of years back when I saw them at Swinney Park. And I know that for reasons no one’s ever explained to me, they changed their name to Heavy Step earlier this year. Beyond that, I’m sorta clueless, except that I really like this CD.
So I called Chad up in Austin. He explained the band formerly known as Skavossas went back to an earlier ska form (I can’t tell you whether it’s traditional ska, mentone or rocksteady, ‘cause I don’t know the difference), had some “guy from the Slackers” produce The Long Shot (Vic Ruggiero) and recorded the CD at a studio outside of Fort Wayne (Bloomington’s Farm Fresh Studios). For some guy in Austin, Chad knew a lot.
Which brings me to what I know, which isn’t a lot except that I really like this CD. It’s been a hell of a year for CD releases in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The quality of music and musicianship, the production values, even the packaging are light years ahead of what they were just a few years ago. I don’t, personally, see how it can get any better. All that remains is for some guy outta New York or L.A. to have a long layover at Fort Wayne International and discover what we’ve got here.
If that happens, Skavossas, er, Heavy Step, will be one of the bands that finally gets some recognition. Todd Hambrook’s got an all-star voice, a bit like Darius Rucker (yes, the Hootie Darius Rucker) with Jamacian soul and a lot more range (check out “Run To Me” for some of the best singing you’ve ever heard on disc), and Eric Rutkowski lays down a solid bass line on every tune. Each song, every last one, is catchy as all get out. I kept looking for a weakness, and just as I’d think, well, maybe they could play horns better, they’d knock my socks off. Check out the intro and bridge to “Slow Down.” Man, what horns! What a song! I don’t think it’s even ska (like I would know), but talk about a song that grabs you and lifts you up.
We review a lot of local CDs here, and we usually go out of our way to find something good to say about them. Not in this case. The Longshot is very simply one of the best CDs I’ve heard all year, local or otherwise. This is music that everyone should hear and enjoy. I hope they pressed plenty of copies this time around, and I hope that guy outta New York or L.A. gets ahold of one. (Doug Driscoll)
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