Jack-O and the Tennessee Tearjerkers – The Disco Outlaw

January 01, 1970





in the mid-1990s, before anyone had heard of the White Stripes or the Black
Keys or any of the other millennial blues garage combos, Jack Yarber and
bandmates Greg Cartwright and Eric Friedl were already fusing southern soul and
R&B with rough-edged rock ‘n’ roll as the Oblivians. (Coincidentally, The
Gories, and later the Dirtbombs, were up north doing the very same thing with
Motown soul.) The Oblivians, and to a lesser extent Yarber’s other band with
Cartwright, the Compulsive Gamblers, defined a certain kind of diesel-fumed, sweat-soaked
Southern garage rock. Though neither band really hit the mainstream, they
inspired tons of followers and even now their influence reverberates. The
principals are still busy, too, Cartwright with the Reigning Sound, Friedl with
the genre-defining Goner Records and Yarber with about half a dozen projects,
including Jack-O and the Tennessee Tearjerkers.


is the fourth Tearjerkers full-length, recorded in Memphis with a core five
piece band – Yarber singing and playing guitar, John Paul Keith of the One Four
Fives on lead, Adam “Bomb” Woodward on organ and other keyboards, Memphis
eccentric Harlan T. Bobo on bass and CoCoComa’s Bill Roe on drums. Afghan
Whigs’ Paul Buchignani sits in on drums for one song (“Let Me Go”) and John
Whittemore (like Keith, a One Four Five) takes lead guitar on “Against the


band is great, fiery and razor sharp, the writing evocative and sure. Rockers like
“Against the Wall” and “Stop Stalling” kick hard at the walls, while ballads
like “Homesick Blues” stretch out in leisurely country laments. “Blood Bank
Blues, maybe the best tune on the album, is a Grinderman-ish hallucination, a-swirl
with vox solo and side-slanting blues licks, paced by Latin syncopations of
woodblock and scratched percussion. It’s completely different from everything
else on the album – but then, you could say that about almost every tune, from
the scrubbed, staccato romanticism of “Sweet Thang” to the early Springsteen
swagger of “Crook for Your Look.” 


If you
laid this album side by side with, say, fellow Oblivian Cartwright’s recent Live at Goner Records, it would be hard
to say which was better…but not so hard to tell the difference. Yarber slips
more than a bit of classic rock into these tunes – you’ll pick up little nods
to the Stones, the Yardbirds and Dylan here, as well as hints of Springsteen
and Tom Petty.  It’s less stripped-down
than the Reigning Sound and maybe less pure. 
Still, you could hardly ask for a better Saturday night record – and
anyway, when was rock and roll ever expected to be pure? 


Standout Tracks: “Blood Bank Blues” “Stop Stalling” “Against the




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