Monthly Archives: July 2018

TRUCK STOP LOVE – Can’t Hear It: 1991-1994

Album: Can't Hear It: 1991-1994

Artist: Truck Stop Love

Label: Black Site Records

Release Date: November 17, 2017


Manhattan, Kansas is not the first place one would conjure when thinking of rock and roll. It may not be Memphis, Seattle, New York or Los Angeles but it did give us Truck Stop Love.

Blending the textures of Bob Mould’s post- Husker Du project Sugar, the country punk swagger of Uncle Tupelo, the aggressiveness of “Sorry, Ma” era Replacements, KISS, Big Star, the pop sensibilities of The Lemonheads and the jangly goodness of Matthew Sweet, Truck  Stop Love created a sound that was truly theirs, an amalgamation described as “pop thrash” on the band’s Facebook page, Truck Stop Love made a thunderous racket in the days when country music, coupled with a blistering wall of guitars and punk rock aggression , became a monster of a movement all its own: a giant named Alt-country.

Bands like Soul Asylum, the country fried fuzz rock of The Meat Puppets and the great Dinosaur Jr., the straight ahead rock n roll of fellow Midwesterners The Replacements or the booze soaked alternative country of Jason and the Scorchers, Truck Stop Love borrowed a little bit of these, a splash here, a dollop there, all coming together triumphantly with “Can’t Hear It: 1991-1994”, a collection of demos and unreleased tracks, recently released by Kansas City, Missouri based label Black Site Records.

Truck Stop Love (the band recently reformed to headline the yearly rock and roll weekend Lawrence Field Day Fest in Lawrence, Kansas), were a band that could hang with the big boys of the time, a foot stomping rock band from the middle of Kansas making music that, even today, twenty five years on, demands to be heard by those of us that miss the Holy Trinity: bass, Drums, guitar.

Re-mastered and produced by former Flaming Lips drummer Kliph Scurlock, Can’t Hear It: 1991-1994 shows a band at the height of its musical powers, standing among some of the best of the time and writing songs that sound as fresh today as they did when they were first recorded, some over two decades ago; the multiple guitar attack of “Townie,” rings true, making the song a hybrid creature of Springsteen, Son Volt, The Bottlerockets and The Descendents; singing the lament of small-town life, the boredom, the loneliness, of Saturday nights spent drunk in the high school parking lot, avoiding the sheriff (I speak from personal experience here).  Truck Stop Love, to me were and are, accessible in a way that too many bands today sadly, will never be.  Truck Stop Love grasped onto their roots, the influence of both the times in which they lived and from those of their youth.  “Can’t Hear It’ is the sound of young guys, pissed at the world, making music, channeling what is around them into a thing to share with anyone who’ll take the time to listen, all while trying to clean out the bar.  If that’s not punk rock, I don’t know what is.

Can’t Hear It chronicles a great band that should’ve made it to the top but, for some reason, didn’t.  Do yourself a favor and re-discover Truck Stop Love with Can’t Hear It: 1991-1994, I’m glad I did.

DOWNLOAD: “Townie” “How I Spent my Summer Vacation” “River Mountain Love”

LAVENDER FLU—Mow the Glass

Album: Mow The Grass

Artist: Lavender Flu

Label: In The Red

Release Date: July 06, 2018

The Upshot: Nowhere near as rough and sweaty as frontman Chris Gunn’s Hunches were, or even as noisy as the first Lavender Flu album, but it’s got a dream-soaked inevitability to it that’s pretty damned beautiful.


This second full-length from Hunches front man Chris Gunn’s psychedelic garage project meanders beguilingly through hazy garden paths, a bit cleaner and more acoustic than the 30-track Heavy Air, but still engulfed in droning, indefinite hum. Like the earlier Lavender Flu album, Mow the Glass is a sharp departure from the Hunches’ rowdy to the point of unhinged-ness, Stooges-MC5 amped blues punk tradition. Here the NW foursome — Gunn, his brother Lucas, Hunches drummer Ben Spencer and Eat Skull’s Scott Simmons — cleaves closer to the fuzzed transcendentalism of Greg Ashley, Skygreen Leopards, even Beachwood Sparks.

Still even in the most lotus-petal-strewn, hippie gnostic tracks, stabs and shouts of rock protrude. “Follow the Flowers,” a flickery, tambourine-dragging pipe dream rouses itself for a burst of emphatic guitars, a shout of “You must return to me, return to me, return,” before nodding off again. “Dream Cleaner,” does the opposite trick, letting big thick bands of distorted guitar and raucous kit-battering drums dominate, but breaking for a day-dreamy interval.

“Like a Summer Thursday,” the Townes van Zandt cover, is one of two songs that also appeared on the first album. Here, cleaned up and clarified, embellished with liquid country guitar twang, the cut floats like a helium balloon, lingers like a psychedelic sunset. The other cover is folk eccentric Jackson C. Frank’s “Just Like Anything,” opened up from its folk-picked origins with double guitars and wailing “aah aahs” into something wiggy and wild and expansive.

Lavender Flu also returns to “Demons in the Dusk” this time, paring it down so that you can see the muscle in its surging guitars, its clattering, crescendoing rattles of drums. It’s nowhere near as rough and sweaty as the Hunches were, or even as noisy as the first Lavender Flu album, but it’s got a dream-soaked inevitability to it that’s pretty damned beautiful.

DOWNLOAD: “Like a Summer Thursday” “Demons in the Dusk”



Album: Hi Seas


Label: Invisible

Release Date: March 02, 2018

The Upshot: Veteran Aussie rocker’s surf/instro incarnation serves up an aquatic gem.


Few – indeed, very few – musicians boast a track record as consistent as Dom Mariani’s. The Australian singer/guitarist has never made a bad record, no matter what the project – the Stems, the DM3, Datura4, the Someloves, the Stoneage Hearts, the DomNicks. That includes the Majestic Kelp, Mariani’s instrumental combo. Though often touted as a surf outfit, the Kelp is far more than that, as fourth LP Hi Seas makes clear.

Fronting a combo consisting of veteran Kelps (bassist Stu Loasby, guitarist Steve Mancini) and newcomers (drummer Todd Pickett, steel guitarist Luke Dux), Mariani makes pit stops at several instrumental locations. There’s the Santo & Johnny-like twang of “Blue Olive,” the Ventures-like swing of “Francisco Street,” the acid folk balladry of “Silver of Gold,” the haunted folk rock of “Song For the Boatman,” the dusty choogle of “Freeway Ace,” the fifties-style doo-wop of “Angel Angeline” and the ocean-at-twilight balladry of the title track, which also boasts vocals. Surf rock isn’t forgotten, either – cf. “The Spider and the Sailor,” though even it doesn’t sound much like Dick Dale.

The Kelp proves itself not only versatile, but constant – no matter where the music wanders, the band’s personality remains. Hi Seas isn’t a survey of the kinds of wordless music Mariani likes – it’s a cohesive work with an artistic through line, and yet another gem in a catalog of never-misses.

DOWNLOAD: “Angel Angeline,” “Song For the Boatman,” “Freeway Ace”

Read our 2016 interview with Mariani HERE.

Waiting To Derail: Ryan Adams & Whiskeytown, by Thomas O’Keefe

Title: Waiting To Derail: Ryan Adams and Whiskeytown, Alt-country’s Brilliant Wreck

Author: Thomas O’Keefe with Joe Oestreich

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Publication Date: June 26, 2018

Yes, all those stories about Adams WERE true: erstwhile tour manager for the band delivers a crucial fly-on-the-wall memoir.


With the late, great alternative country Tar Heel band Whiskeytown, it was always a Gumpian prospect: Like the proverbial box of chocolates, you never knew what you were gonna get. Not due to design, of course; the band itself was a brilliant assemblage of talent, and they busted their asses night after night and created some of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest records. But when you have a frontman as mercurial and erratically-behaving as Ryan Adams, there’s only so much you can do; by some accounts, Whiskeytown must have been eerily like Trump’s White House at times, given the chaos Adams could create.

Okay, that’s unfair. We are talking rock ‘n’ roll, traditionally repository of rebels, weirdos, eccentrics, misfits, and outright psychopaths. So I’ll amend the above statement to simply characterize Adams’ bandmates as “long suffering.” And they clearly got something out of the deal, particularly violinist/co-vocalist Caitlin Cary, who seemingly stuck by Adams pretty much to the bitter end, weathering the frequent roster departures of others and, if appearances are accurate, helping serve as a semi-stabilizing force during those times when Adams went off the rails.

Speaking of those rails, we have Waiting To Derail by, full disclosure, my old friend Tom O’Keefe, who I had known pretty well during the ‘80s and early ‘90s while living in Charlotte and hanging out often with Tom and his bandmates in Queen City punk legends ANTiSEEN. In his new memoir, O’Keefe recounts how he subsequently became Whiskeytown’s tour manager circa 1997 through the band’s 2000 split. I would hesitate to also characterize him as “long suffering” because he signed up for the (paying) gig knowing, at least partly, what he would be getting himself into, something the band members themselves aren’t necessarily privy to when they first get together to make music en route to a full-time excursion into codependency. Plus, O’Keefe can legitimately say that in addition to the teeshirt, he got one hell of a story to tell the grandkids. Here, he’s joined by co-author Joe Oestreich, a journalist and author of several books as well as a professor of creative writing at Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina.

Waiting To Derail kicks off, prologue-style, in colorful enough fashion, with Adams half-passed out and surrounded by EMTs and police, vitals being carefully checked and rechecked. As the incident finally winds down and the EMTs pack up their gear, one of the policemen turns and speaks to O’Keefe: “Goddam, son, I wouldn’t trade jobs with you for anything.” Whew. When a copy says something like that, it’s saying a lot.

Appropriately enough, the book’s first section is titled “The Sheriff of Whiskeytown,” recounting how O’Keefe got the job by (a) having had some prior experience handling tour manager duties and appearing to be moderately stable (admittedly, a very relative term in rock ‘n’ roll); and (b) because he was living in Raleigh, and as Whiskeytown had just finished cutting their major label debut, Strangers Almanac, for Outpost/Geffen, his Austin-based management desperately needed, as O’Keefe puts it, “somebody on the ground to shepherd Ryan and the band through their next touring cycle.” A lot was riding on Whiskeytown, deemed the blossoming alt-country scene’s number one rising star but, thanks to their frontman, already had a bit of a reputation. Writes O’Keefe, “During Whiskeytown’s most recent string of shows—on the No Depression tour, sharing the stage with the Old 97’s, Hazeldine, and the Picketts—Ryan and the band had been woefully inconsistent. They would play a tight set of stellar songs one night and then be drunk and sloppy the next.”

From there we follow Officer O’Keefe as he does indeed shepherd Adams across the musical landscape, from seeing that his charge is awake and lucid enough for scheduled interviews and getting to band rehearsals on time, to carefully doling out the daily per diems so the musicians won’t blow all their dough the first night and ensuring Adams doesn’t get completely hammered before going onstage. Among the memorable scenes:

–A booking at a sports bar in East Lansing where, with many of the patrons preferring to watch the Detroit Tigers on TV, a drunken Adams grows frustrated and belligerent and deliberately starts playing sloppily. A back-and-forth of “fuck yous” between audience members and Adams ensues, and the singer eventually storms offstage, resulting in a rock- and beercan-throwing altercation in the parking lot. “Ryan would hold a grudge against East Lansing for years,” writes O’Keefe. (Presciently, it seems, as many years later, as a solo artist based in New York City, Adams would take umbrage at perceived slights by former associates in Raleigh and vow never to play his old homebase again.)

–Another show, in Aspen, where, in front of a couple hundred people, among them actor Kevin Costner, Adams, who’d decided that Whiskeytown was not “a ski town band,” yanked his amplifier to “11” and, with wall of noise blasting, dropped to his knees and lay flat on the stage for 25 minutes.

–A promotional appearance at a radio station that had been airing the band’s “16 Days” and had requested that they perform it live in the studio, culminates in Adams repeatedly refusing. (O’Keefe: “It was a standoff, and I felt like a UN negotiator.”) The back and forth continues, and finally Adams blurts into the mic, “I don’t have to kiss some guy’s dick just because he wants to hear the single”—at which point Whiskeytown is summarily ejected from “the most important AAA station in America.”

–A late night scare, after a show back at the hotel, where a very fucked-up Adams, upon inspecting the balcony overlooking the 12-story atrium, declares to O’Keefe and the others, “I can fly,” and proceeds to climb up on the railing, “faking like he was going to do a half gainer,” and has to be swiftly grabbed by the waist and dragged down off the railing.

In between his colorful, sometimes-soberly related/sometimes-hilariously spun anecdotes, O’Keefe offers up a series of helpful expository tutorials—Adams’ and Cary’s pre-Whiskeytown background; how the alt-country movement was born and evolved, as well as how North Carolina’s Triangle area—and Raleigh in particular—embraced the scene; the jealousy backlash that a number of locals unleashed on Whiskeytown after the band began wowing the critics and gradually became the most prominent act to emerge from the city. (In that regard Waiting To Derail is an able companion to a previous book about Adams, 2012’s Losering, written by Raleigh News & Observer music critic David Menconi; fans of either volume will definitely delight in the other.)

But of course, as this book is an insider account, you’ve come primarily for the behind the scenes stuff and not the history lesson, right? And O’Keefe does not disappoint. His memory is remarkably clear, his insights into Adams’ personality and motivations profound. Anyone who’s ever worked as a tour manager for a rock band will tell you that they have to be a cat wrangler, a den mother, and a psychologist in addition to taking care of mundane stuff like making sure everyone gets their per diems and the club owner doesn’t stiff them. Waiting To Derail, then, is the type of book that any fan of rock ‘n’ roll—and of course all fans of Adams— will devour precisely for its fly-on-the-wall qualities and how it provides a sharp-lensed view of what goes on after the lights come on and the gear is packed up.

In 2018, Thomas O’Keefe is a music industry veteran with a hugely impressive resume, having worked with the likes of big names like Train, Third Eye Blind, Sia, and, currently, Weezer. Undoubtedly his years spent with Whiskeytown served him well—if his early stint as bassist for “destructo rockers” ANTiSEEN was his rock ‘n’ roll boot camp, then think of his three years in the trenches with Whiskeytown as his tour of Iraq and Afghanistan. Considering all he had to deal with, he deserves a freakin’ purple heart.


The Green Pajamas – Phantom Lake: Northern Gothic 3

Album: Phantom Lake: Northern Gothic 3

Artist: Green Pajamas

Label: Green Monkey

Release Date: March 16, 2018



Seattle’s Green Pajamas have long been one of the most consistently good acts in the psych rock underground, with three decades’ worth of albums, EPs, side projects and ephemera that’s always at least interesting, and often brilliant. But there’s a special place in the band’s catalog for the “Northern Gothic” series. Starting with 2002’s eponymous album and continuing through 2007’s Box of Secrets: Northern Gothic Season 2, the records put a (slightly) bigger emphasis on, yes, the gothic side of the group’s personality. Of course, for leader Jeff Kelly, “gothic” is not about black eyeliner, vampires and depression, but the more classical definition, as found in literature, architecture and art. In practical terms, that means the only thing his band’s version of gothic shares with the Cure and Bauhaus is a penchant for minor chords.

In that respect, Phantom Lake: Northern Gothic 3 is, in many ways, a prototypical Green Pajamas album – full of gently acidic melodies, soulfully plainspoken singing and lyrics haunted by ghosts real and imagined. But, as with all “Northern Gothic” branded releases, there’s something special at work here. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is – more lyrical focus? Stronger melodies? More precise instrumental work? Whatever the reason, the band is on fire here. “Lisa Lou” and “The Rosebergs” continue the PJs’ tradition of sharp pop songs, while “The Shepard Well” and “Red Bird” does the same for folk rock. “Ana (All the Way Down),” “Monica Talks to Angels” and “Amy’s Gonna Take You Down” feature some of the group’s toughest rock songs ever, with catchy tunes enhanced by steely guitar fills. The Green Pajamas rarely miss anyway, but Phantom Lake: Northern Gothic 3 is undeniably a new set of PJs classics.

DOWNLOAD: “Amy’s Gonna Take You Down,” “Monica Talks to Angels,” “Ana (All the Way Down)”

MAD CADDIES – Punk Rocksteady

Album: Punk Rocksteady

Artist: Mad Caddies

Label: Fat Wreck Chords

Release Date: June 15, 2018

The Upshot: Classic punk tunes get a reggae/dub/ska/dance hall treatment, and with surprisingly impressive results.


Cover albums are nothing new for punk rock and ska bands. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a ska album in the 1990s that didn’t have at least one token ironic cover (Reel Big Fish, in fact, owe a great deal of their career to songs by A-Ha and Tracy Chapman). But Mad Caddies take the usually phoned-in covers concept and hands in an impressive alternative to the normally stale offerings with Punk Rocksteady.

Across a dozen tracks, the California ska/punk long stays take a slew of punk rock classics and cram them through a horn heavy reggae/dub/ska/dance hall filter and the results are surprisingly impressive.

Though some of the songs they take liberties with come from longtime friends and label mates – lower stakes, coming from groups whose influence are pretty in line with their own – like NOFX’s “She’s Gone,” Lagwagon’s “Alien 8” and the late Tony Sly’s “AM.” Elsewhere though they take some bigger risks by tackling a nearly flawless punk nugget like Bad Religion’s “Sorrow” or the Misfit’s “Some Kind of Hate,” songs with history and real stakes and with each cover, Mad Caddies mange to make them entirely their own.

The world probably didn’t need another cover album, but thankfully the Mad Caddies didn’t heed that advice.

DOWNLOAD: “Sorrow,” “She” and “Alien 8”


SARAH MARY CHADWICK-Sugar Still Melts in the Rain

Album: Sugar Still Melts in the Rain

Artist: Sarah Mary Chadwick

Label: Sinderlyn

Release Date: May 18, 2018

The Upshot: New Zealander sings with a brutal honesty and rancor; think of an angrier, less word-playing Courtney Barnett or a cabaret-in-hell version of Sandra Bell.


Sarah Mary Chadwick’s voice is broken in the most beautiful way, the cracks and growls and wobbles like the spider lines in glass just before it shatters. She works these songs like a cat scratching up the glass towards freedom, not so much singing them as fervently trying to escape their bounds. The songs themselves are modestly couched in late night piano, heat-thundery bass and quietly emphatic drums, yet the flare of hurt and longing transcends their structures. There is almost too much poured into these musical vessels. They brim, they slop over, they run down in desolate eddies.

Chadwick, a native New Zealander currently operating out of Melbourne, started in strident punk-grungy Batrider. Now on her fourth solo full-length, she sings with a brutal honesty and rancor; think of an angrier, less word-playing Courtney Barnett or a cabaret-in-hell version of Sandra Bell. Her shadowy, crevice-y voice recalls Broken English-era Marianne Faithfull, while her emotional pyrotechnics evoke certain Jeff Buckley tunes. Yet there’s a survivor’s triumph in her compositions, a keening, syllable-stretching, show-stopping muscularity in the way she turns a chorus up to eleven, especially in the title track, which’ll give you the shivers. Or in heart-breaking “Bauble on a Chain,” when Chadwick observes wistfully, “I thought you were deeper than that/I thought your troubles had sharpened your compassion.”  Faithless lovers and casual music listeners may indeed prefer a bauble on a chain to songs this lacerating, but if you’re willing to go deep, Sugar Still Melts in the Rain is so real.

DOWNLOAD: “Sugar Still Melts in the Rain,” “Bauble on a Chain.”




Album: The Show Must Go On

Artist: Sean Alan and the True Love Band

Label: self-released

Release Date: June 22, 2018

The Upshot: With its a timeless quality stripped of any pretention or contrived gimmicks, you’ll have a record you’ll keep going back to again and again.         


I’d swear that LA-based musician Sean Alan was a modern-day oracle, if it weren’t obvious from the day that the dick currently in the White House was sworn in that he would continue with his xenophobic, anti-anyone not white tendencies until our country mirrored one of his beloved golf club membership lists.

On “Refugee Song,” the second track on Alan And The True Love Band’s wildly enjoyable new record, The Show Must Go On, he sings “Refugee ain’t got no home/Just like a seed in the wind, getting blown/Stuffing a suitcase, your fates unknown/Arrive in a new place, the gates are closed.” Along with being strongly prophetic given current events at our borders, the song highlights perfectly Alan’s strong sense of truth in storytelling with his songwriting. Wrapping powerful lyrics in sweet, often catchy music, the messages are easily received throughout the eight tracks housed here.

Although there are definite standouts on the record, like the title track and the fantastic “Rich Man’s World,” even some of the weaker spots here are still pretty solid songs. The Show Must Go On boasts a timeless quality stripped of any pretention or contrived gimmicks. The result is a record you’ll keep going back to again and again.

Download: “The Show Must Go On,” “The One I Love” and “Rich Man’s World”


Check out the track “My Love For You” which BLURT premiered here back in March.


TUCCI – Olivia

Album: Olivia

Artist: Tucci

Label: Hideaway Music

Release Date: July 14, 2017

The Upshot: Fans of southern rock take note. This Florida-based band rises from the ashes of the Toler-Tucci Band and, together with the addition of Arkansas’ Larry McCray, the south may well be rising again.


 Unless you’re a botanist or an art major, you’d likely not give this disc passing notice, visually – its moody, floral cover art revealing precious little about its inspiring content. Tucci is a band that hails from Sarasota, Florida, blossoming around guitarist/singer/composer Steve “Doc” Tucci, bassist Harry DeBusk, brother/drummer Mike Tucci and saxophonist/vocalist Shawn Murphy. You might recall the Toler-Tucci Band, an earlier offshoot that featured Great Southern/Allman Bros. guitarist “Dangerous Dan” Toler (who died in 2013 of ALS). This updated version of the band maintains the guitar as its key instrument across an amalgam of rock, blues and a hint of country. At the same time – and not to detract from the band – Doc has teamed up with the hard-driving blues genius of Larry McCray and the combination is thoroughly brain-shattering, making one wonder where Larry’s been these last few years. He’s all over this record and, never sounding better, adds real muscle and unbridled energy to Tucci’s blues and rock-based sound. The disc also features one of Toler’s final recordings, “Play by The Rules” – slow, Southern blues with a powerful vocal by Al Owen, the twin guitars of Toler and Tucci atop Donnie Richard’s rich bed of B3. This is a sweet present, immortalizing Toler’s gifts as it adds to the somewhat schizophrenic nature of the record – if only because a patchwork quilt of players and singers seem to come and go across the course of eleven original tunes. The best news of all is that, despite the passing of Greg Allman and what seems the end of an era of beloved Southern Rock, the spirit is alive and well in Sarasota.

Right out of the gate, “High Roller” is a robust, horn-tinged blues attack that can best be summed up in two words: Larry McCray. Coupled with Doc Tucci’s guitar and Donnie Richards’ B3, this track explodes with energy and sets the tone. McCray’s warm, beefy vocal suit his Freddy King-styled guitar edge. The title track suffers only because Shawn Murphy vocals follow McCray’s, although the addition of great slide guitar from Ira Stanley, Doc Tucci on guitar, Richards on B3 and a (sadly uncredited) major league horn section, “Olivia” manages to burn down the barn. “I Don’t Need It” sees the return of McCray’s guitar and rich vocal, slowing things down to drive the blues in even deeper as Michael Tucci’s crisp drum attack merges with Richards’ soulful B3.”Gimme Some Of Your Love” proffers tight horns, Tucci’s expansive guitar sound and the throaty growl of McCray’s vocals (the track recalling Steppenwolf’s “Straight Shootin’ Woman”). Steve “Doc” Tucci’s wafer-thin vocals hold back “Overtaxed Blues” which, otherwise, is the perfect vehicle for he and McCray to spar like superstars on guitar, nicely accented by Dan Ryan’s spritely piano contribution. The same lineup transforms “Hey, Florida” into a muscular, slide-friendly, twin guitar (Tucci/McCray) assault on the Sunshine State as added percussion (again, uncredited) and a revitalized vocal turn (and exceptional sax solo) by Shawn Murphy join Richards’ potent B3 work to elevate this love letter into a meaty, Southern rock jam reinvigorating the category.

This spirited lineup follows with the slightly slowed down “Big Train” as Murphy’s vocal again finds its proper home. Tucci and McCray draw deeply upon their blues core, both turning in exceptional solos while Tucci’s slick horn section (bolstered by another luscious sax solo from Murphy) proves they’re unable to quit. McCray owns “Without You” with his convincing vocal as he and Doc continue mining their slow blues vein while Dan Ryan blankets the track in impassioned B3 – the Unnamed Horns doing their damnedest to make a name for themselves. This is an exemplary example of Tucci’s full potential as a band. Enter Dan Toler with his last recorded workout from ’12 with “Play by The Rules”. Al Owen locks down a fitting lead vocal as Toler’s guitar sound volunteers a hard-edged country-blues feel, Doc’s guitar assuming more of a support role to set up Toler’s velvety lead. The caliber of Donnie Richards’ exceptional B3 skills cannot be understated as Michael Tucci and DeBusk are more than up to the challenge of holding the TUCCI bottom down. “You Hurt Me” returns McCray to the fold with his signature vocals as the Tucci/McCray guitar line, Dan Ryan’s applied piano and the Nameless Horns set the stage for even more searing guitar solos from both players.

The coup de grâce comes in the form of the closing track, “Third Eye”. Again, Shawn Murphy delivers a seamless vocal while guesting guitarist Bob Dielman and Doc toughen their guitar sound to achieve deep grace on this 12-minute opus. Reinforced by a hefty rhythm section and backup vocals, additional percussion helps to turn up the temperature while Richards outdoes himself on B3. All the while, Dielman and Doc take turns strafing the swirling mass like young starfighters on adrenaline highs. More Captain Beyond at times than ABB, “Third Eye” single-handedly exhumes the true benefits of the extended jam, right down to DeBusk’s too-brief bass solo, Richards’ scorching keyboards and the percussion-only break at the 7:30 mark. So, if you thought the death of Southern Rock was nigh upon us, Tucci (the band) will have you back waving your flag in no time flat.

DOWNLOAD: “Third Eye,” “High Roller,” “Hey Florida”



Album: Jawbone

Artist: George Terry & the Zealots

Label: self-released

Release Date: July 27, 2018

The Upshot: Asheville visual and musical artist serves up a memorable rawk ‘n’ roll platter that is perfect for the times we find ourselves in. One of two records the prolific Terry is releasing.


A classic slice of Tar Heel rock ‘n’ roll arrived in 2013 titled Open Season, a hi-nrg slice of twangy, Americana-lined garage/power pop by Asheville-based outfit George Terry & the Zealots. As I noted at the time, in my review of the album, “Throughout, Terry casts an alternately jaded and hopeful gaze at the humanity (or occasional lack thereof) that surrounds him, sometimes also finding fault with himself, his motivations, and his actions, but always discovering, in the end, a reason to believe.”

On his new Zealots effort, Jawbone, Terry reaffirms that mandate and then some, serving up a musical buffet of remarkable range. He recorded primarily with Southern Culture On the Skids’ Rick Miller at Miller’s Kudzu Ranch studio, along with Matt Williams (Eagle Room studio), and Michael Hynes (Nomatic studio), with musicians including Hynes, Aaron Price, Woody Wood, Caleb Beissert, Lyric Jones, and SCOTS’ Dave Hartman. The band traverses folkish, mandolin/fiddle-powered alt-country/folk (opening track “Wide Open Spaces”) and tingly indie pop (the surf-flecked “Chameleon), to classic/anthemic late ‘70s-styled power pop (“Somebody’s Gotta Pay,” a natural radio cut, plus “The Cruel Truth,” a darker, Morricone-esque slice of cynicism made even darker by the socio-political times we find ourselves in)—and also to just straight-up-blazing, in-your-face, rebel-riff-rawk—the angry slide guit licks populating “Ceases to Amaze Me” mirror Terry’s lyrical outrage and indignation. It’s a 2018 album, start to finish, but one that balances Terry’s lyrical now with a sonic classicist’s broader perspective.

As with his previous releases—ditto Terry’s upcoming solo album, Plow, under the nom du rawk George Trouble, also recorded with Miller, mixed by the legendary Mixerman (Asheville-based Eric Sarafin), and featuring a number of the same musicians—the striking album art is self-created: Terry is an accomplished visual artist, something yours truly has verified on my numerous visits to his RAMP Arts studio in Asheville’s River Arts District. (Go HERE to check out his RAMP page and plenty examples of his work. He’s not shy about dipping his brush into contemporary politics, either.) I’d reckon that whether you discover the dude through reviews such as this on, or happen upon his studio while visiting Asheville, you’ll find yourself utterly charmed by him in one context or another.

Me, I’m just happy to get the whole picture each time out.

DOWNLOAD: “Ceases to Amaze me,” “The Cruel Truth,” “Samson”