Joe Grushecky – East Carson Street

January 01, 1970


(Schoolhouse Records)


The 1970s gave rise to a sub-sub-genre of rock ‘n’ roll
known as “Rust Belt” or “Heartland rock.” Street-smart and
lyrically savvy, the style welded the garage-rock and soul music of the
previous decade with a harder edge to create a sort of “working class
blues.” Bruce Springsteen is, perhaps, the most critically-acclaimed and
commercially successful troubadour of this poor’s boy’s symphony, with Bob
Seger, John Mellencamp, and others bringing up the rear guard.


Rust Belt rock has long since become passé…Bruce, bless his
soul, is a multi-gajillionaire who, no matter how hard he tries, has lost his
affinity with us po’ folk. Seger has retired to a ranch somewhere on the outer
fringes of the apocalyptic urban wasteland once known as Detroit, Johnny boy
has sold his soul to the man, and other practitioners of this antique brand of
rock have long since disappeared due to commercial indifference, or discovered
house music, or something…except for Pittsburgh’s Joe Grushecky.


As far as Rust Belt rock goes, Grushecky is the last man
standing, and as shown by his latest, East Carson Street,
Joey G. ain’t giving up an inch to history, either. His first album with
long-time band the Houserockers since 2004, East
Carson Street
features Grushecky’s typical lyrical acumen, his whip-smart
story-songs accompanied by unbridled, guitar-driven music that isn’t afraid to
rawk when the situation calls for it.


Also as usual, the material on East Carson Street is semi-biographical and partially
observational, and easily recognizable to anybody that has actually worked for
a living. The homespun homilies of the album-opening “Chasing
Shadows” (“slow down and enjoy it, life ain’t a race”,
“don’t waste your time chasing shadows”) take on gargantuan
importance when mixed with piercing guitars, crashing drumbeats, and
Grushecky’s wonderfully gravel-throated vocals. The scorching fretwork opening
“It’s Too Late (Can’t Turn Back Now)” lays the groundwork for the
song’s insightful, introspective lyrics, keyboards chiming urgently as guitars
pile up notes like cars on the freeway.


The mid-tempo folk-rock of the title track does Johnny
Mellencamp and his “Small Town”
one better, Grushecky musing on the importance of friends and family, the price
of fame too high a toll if it means giving up life on “East
Carson Street.” It’s a lovely song, a great
sentiment, and a quietly defiant statement against the myth that one has to
discard the past if they want to find the future. Grushecky’s old pal and
songwriting partner Bruce Springsteen drops by for the anthemic rocker
“Another Thin Line,” the song featuring three? four? guitars ringing
clearly between the shared vocals, the song itself another positivist plea for
faith in an often cold world.


It’s another song collaboration on East Carson Street, however, that stands out, Grushecky and fellow Steel
City songwriter Bill Deasy penning
the excellent folk-rock dirge “Broken Wheel.” With alternating vocals
and menacing guitar strum, the song tells of a man at odds with himself,
possibly on the run from the law, a man with no apparent way of surviving the
ordeal. It’s a haunting song with an old west feel and a rock ‘n’ roll vibe
that puts all of those wussy indie-rock scribes to shame.


Grushecky’s “The Sun Is Going To Shine Again” is a
classic Rust Belt rocker in the vein of his earlier Iron City Houserockers band,
a bright tale of love conquering the brutalities that life often brings…the
job, the bills, all the petty little injustices that fade away when you have
somebody to share them with you, beat ’em down and render them meaningless.
Joined by fellow rocker Willie Nile on vocals, the song is an encouraging reminder
of the good things in life. “Down River” is an honest look at
mortality by the veteran rocker, who has probably lost more friends by now than
he cares to remember. The song’s beautiful lyrics are sung with reverence by
Grushecky against a gentle rolling soundtrack that creates an elegant emotional


Better than 30 years since the Iron City Houserockers hit
the scene with their excellent debut album Love’s
So Tough
, and nearly 40 since Grushecky first played with the Brick Alley
Band, the man still rocks with an energy and commitment that boys half his age
can’t muster. While the addition of his 20-something-year-old son Johnny has
certainly brought a youthful vigor to the Houserockers band, the truth is that
Joe Grushecky has been following the siren’s call of rock ‘n’ roll for most of
his life, and he isn’t about to give up now. East Carson Street shows that, while Grushecky may not have found
the fountain of youth, unlike almost all of his contemporaries, neither has he
forgotten the sheer joy of making music.


Standout Tracks: “East Carson Street,”
“Broken Wheel,” “Chasing Shadows” REV. KEITH A. GORDON






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