The Upshot: An ace collaboration between Roscoe and Jimbo Mathus, it’s also one of the purest gut-level rock ‘n’ roll albums you’re likely to hear all year.
BY FRED MILLS
You’ve heard that term “tight but loose,” right? This new one from Eric Ambel is more along the lines of loose but tight, with that twinned swinging/in-the-pocket vibe. That for Lakeside, Ambel signed up Jimbo Mathus for production duties as well as sundry drums, bass and guitars, would suggest a summit of like-minded, er, swingers. Because this is one of the purest gut-level rock ‘n’ roll albums you’re likely to hear all year.
Ambel, of course, has a particularly potent CV: tenures with Joan Jett, the Del-Lords, the Yahoos and Steve Earle’s Dukes; production gigs with a who’s who of exemplars (among them: Nils Lofgren, Bottle Rockets, the Backsliders and Marshall Crenshaw); his own occasional solo excursions under his own name or as Roscoe’s Gang. But Lakeside, named after the NYC watering hole he used to operate, and cut with Mathus at his own professional recording studio in Brooklyn, Cowboy Technical Services, is something else, man.
It kicks off with a tune written by his old Del-Lords running partner Scott Kempner, a good-timey, twangy little shuffle called “Here Come My Love.” That’s immediately followed by a classic slice of heavy blooze-rawk, the Mathus-penned “Hey Mr. DJ,” a paean to turning up the volume (“crank that shit up all over the place”) that, with its Neanderthal thud and distorted solos, could pass for a vintage slab of Free, Cream or Mountain. Ditto with Ambel’s own “Have Mercy” (speaking of Free, the riff is not too far removed from “All Right Now”; that’s Phil Cimino manning the drum kit here and on several other cuts), and the downright nasty “Don’t Make Me break You Down,” which suggests Neil Young Crazy Horse assaulting the Don Nix classic “Going Down” (speaking of assault, check Ambel’s brutal leads). Meanwhile—speaking of Young—the Ambel-Mathus composition “Buyback Blues” is out of that same Cortezian wheelhouse, a slow, mournful, dark 12-bar thang that swaps nasty for haunted.
I could go on at length about every song here, but… for a change of sonic pace, certainly turn your attention to both the sweetly-textured, gently-paced cover of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings’ “Look at Miss Ohio” and the Ambel-authored instrumental titled “Cryin’ In My Sleep” that’s an homage to all the great Fifties and early Sixties instros (think Floyd Cramer). Meanwhile, there’s also a riotous take on the timeless R&B raver “Money” destined to be the ultimate set-closer for Ambel in concert, tailor-made for when everyone is perfectly lubricated, stomping their feet, and hollering along at the top of their lungs. I risk redundancy in saying this, but the bottom line is the album is about as pure a distillation of rock ‘n’ roll as I’ve encountered in ages.
Lakeside is a vinyl-only album, a gatefold beauty limited to 500 copies and pressed on sweet 180-gm wax (download included), so grab it while copies last, punters.
DOWNLOAD: “Buyback Blues,” “Money,” “Have Mercy”