One of New York’s Great Surf and Twang Guitarists Visits a Familiar Williamsburg Watering Hole This Week
Jason Loughlin is one of the elite guitarists in Americana because he has his own sound rather than just a deep bag of recycled country and blues licks. Much as there probably aren’t many classic country and surf rock licks he doesn’t know, he always finds a way to make them sound fresh. Big names – Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris among them – are aware of this and have enlisted his services for a long time. But Loughlin is also a bandleader, and has had a regular more-or-less monthly residency at Skinny Dennis pretty much since they opened, with a long break during the collective insanity in 2020 and 2021. He’s back there with his band on March 16 at 9.
Loughlin’s recorded output as a leader is not extensive, but what he has is absolutely brilliant. His most recent album, Peach Crate came out quite awhile ago – his Bandcamp page lists two different dates. If expertly twangy guitar instrumentals that transcend the surf genre are your thing, you have to hear this (and you may have already – getting to this one a little late!) It’s also been quite awhile since this blog was in the house at Loughlin show. If memory serves right, the last time was at the old Hank’s in 2015, where he was playing his usual tasteful, purposeful leads alongside folk noir songstress Jessie Kilguss.
He opens the record with the warm, briskly shuffling title track, a western swing highway theme with some snazzy, rapidfire guitar riffage over sailing layers of lapsteel, bassist Jason Hogue and Stephen Chopek subtly pushing the beat.
Loughlin builds an intricate web of lickety-split, tongue-in-cheek Buck Owens Bakersfield phrasing in the second track, Whoopsie Daisy. Tango and Cash is a real treat, part loping Ventures summer surf theme, part chiming countrypolitan, part Tex-Mex. Woody’s in the Hood is another gem of a mashup, a Django shuffle as noir icons Big Lazy would have done it.
Likewise, Steep Grade is a creepy, picturesque spiderwalking number, but with plenty of jokes too good to give away. The trio pick up the pace with She’s Something Sweet, a percolating blend of Bakersfield twang and elegant 60s soul. Hello Tijuana, Goodbye Kidney is not the horror tableau you might expect, but instead, a plush, lingering 6/8 ballad without words. Who knew that being on the wrong side of an organ trafficking scheme could be so enjoyable!
Loughlin builds a tight web of jump blues-flavored twin harmonies in Recordian and follows with the chugging, erudite Slack Jaw, part Buck Owens, part late-period Bob Wills, with Rich Hinman on pedal steel. Loughlin winds up the album with Headless Body Topless Bar, a slow, lurid roadhouse theme with echoes as diverse as the Raybeats and the Friends of Dean Martinez.