New York Music Daily

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Tag: psychedelic rock

Rogers & Butler Bring Their Erudite, Classic Riffage and Guitar Anthems to the Chelsea Piers

In terms of purist, catchy rock craftsmanship in 2022, Rogers & Butler’s new vinyl record Brighter Day – streaming at Bandcamp – is as good as it gets. Guitarist Stephen Butler’s American powerpop sensibility makes a good anchor for singer Edward Rogers’ more artsy, psychedelic blend of 70s Brummie rock, Bowie surrealism and more towering European-flavored sounds, from the Church to Oasis. Their six-stringer bandmate Don Piper’s production puts luscious guitar up front with the vocals, bass and drums in the back where they belong. The duo are opening for the brilliantly lyrical Amy Rigby on a killer twinbill on Oct 3 at 7:30 PM at City Winery; you can get in for $15.

Notwithstanding the bright chord changes and singalong melodies, there’s a frequent undercurrent of unease here, echoing Rogers’ work over the past several years. Although it’s likely that a lot of the songs here date from before the plandemic, themes of alienation and despair filter to the surface in places. They open with the title track, which comes across as beefed-up Big Star: “Six feet apart or six feet underground, the choice is yours to make,” Rogers rasps sarcastically.

Where Does the World Hide rises from a skittish midtempo new wave tune to a big nocturnal alienation anthem: “Every second’s a lifetime when no one ever returns your calls,” Butler confides. They follow with Last Reply, a distantly elegaic, Beatlesque piano ballad, Chris Carmichael overdubbing himself into a one-man string orchestra.

Spiced with Joe McGinty’s Fender Rhodes, Learn to Live Again is a more lithe, sparely arranged take on Willie Nile-style powerpop, a cynical chronicle dotted with plandemic imagery, “scarred stale reminders of where we’ve been.” It’s hardly optimistic.

Marmalade Eyes, a cautionary tale about a femme fatale, begins as a wary acoustic-electric waltz, then the band morph it into a steady powerpop update on 60s psych-pop. Over layers of guitar jangle, spare piano and floating mellotron, Rogers chronicles a carefree stroll along a main street of junk shops and t-shirt vendors in A Perfect Market Day. Yet beneath the surface, in the context of the events after March 2020, it’s heartbreaking. Who knew we would ever miss something as mundane as browsing in a vintage store?

The band follow Butler’s burning garage rock-tinged stomp Desire with Cabaret, a wistful Spanish guitar waltz by Rogers that wouldn’t be out of place on an early 70s Al Stewart record. The best song on the album is The Sun Won’t Shine, a haunting, death-fixated backbeat anthem that could be ELO from the latter part of that decade but with harder production values.

The band close the record with Oh Romeo, a Celtic ballad with an elegant interweave of acoustic guitar and mandolin, and then A Brand New Tomorrow, a Daytripper knockoff with extra guitar multitracks. It was fun to watch an early incarnation of the band pulling their show together about three years ago; it’s validating to see how well these two veteran tunesmiths complement each other.

The Dream Syndicate Return With a Haunting, Stomping Masterpiece

Much as the Dream Syndicate will always be best known for their volcanic jams, those unhinged duels wouldn’t mean much without frontman Steve Wynn‘s allusive, frequently menacing songs.

And just when it might have seemed that the Dream Syndicate had finally gone off on an odyssey to the far shores of jazz, they return with their most song-oriented album since their iconic 1982 release The Medicine Show. The resolutely shapeshifting jamband’s latest vinyl record, Ultraviolet Battle Hymns and True Confessions – streaming at Bandcamp – is basically a light side followed by a dark side, with a trippy coda to bring it full circle.

Wynn’s songwriting is as novelistic, deviously allusive and counterintuitive as it has been ever since the band busted out forty years ago: is there anyone alive who has written more good songs? Hearing one catchy verse and chorus after another is a real mindfuck, in contrast to the slowly unwinding, symphonic AACM-rock epics on the band’s previous album, The Universe Inside, which was a rare bright light amid the relentless gloom of 2020.

The opening track, Where I’ll Stand has the classic Dream Syndicate backbeat sound, but with more of the dreampop swirl that Wynn has explored in recent years – and maybe a little Bowie in the mix too. The gist is “don’t bullshit me” – in more reflective, articulate terms.

Track two is Damian, a lithe 70s Tom Petty-style bounce that suddenly winds into one of Wynn’s signature series of unpredictable changes. His conspiratorial narrator seems to be telling his beaten-down bud that all omens aren’t necessarily grim. Lead guitarist Jason Victor fires off a tantalizingly sinuous guitar solo as it fades out.

“I’m a scrapyard and a barking dog, everything must go,” Wynn intones in Beyond Control, the band rising over drummer Dennis Duck’s brisk spacerock drive as keyboardist Chris Cacavas throws in a quirky mbira-like setting. Hearing Victor playing a skittish, staccato chorus-box pattern is a trip.

The Chronicles of You is a gorgeously vindictive, enveloping number glistening with layer after layer of guitars along with wafting horn harmonies from Marcus Tenney, who doubles on sax and trumpet. Wynn has been one of the great voices in rock noir for years, and this is prime: “Was it really scripted in the sky by your own private plane? Was it the undertaker’s arms that laid you down in the grave?” As usual, there are infinitely more questions here than answers.

Victor’s lapsteel and the horns resonate uneasily throughout Hard to Say Goodbye, a slowly strolling requiem for someone who couldn’t resist the lure of shiny objects that flicker. It comes across as pastoral Pink Floyd done Steve Wynn style, The band shift to a cyclotron take on the Jesus & Mary Chain in Every Time You Come Around, bassist Mark Walton rising to pierce the veil. “Tell me what you think is inappropriate, I’ll tell you why you’re wrong,” Wynn cryptically avers.

A searing Victor riff kicks off Trying to Get Over, a stampeding Wynn study in conman doublespeak. With Victor’s searing, careening lead lines, the song looks back to Wynn’s volcanic 90s work: say, the Melting in the Dark album.

Wynn’s rapidfire lyrics deliver a grimly aphoristic payoff in Lesson Number One, a withering portrait of someone slithering to move his own goalposts as damage control gets more complicated. It could also be a portrait of somebody recently scheduled for an exit from the NIAID – and could be the best song of the year.

The sarcasm remains at redline for My Lazy Mind, one of those tango-flavored struts that Wynn does so well. It wouldn’t be out of place in the Ward White catalog, all the way through the “curtain call from Frankenstein.” The album’s final cut is Straight Lines, a breathlessly charging garage rock number, the Seeds as played by mid-70s Can maybe. You’ll see this on the best albums of 2022 page here if we’re all still around..

A Lusciously Layered, Anthemic New Art-Rock Record From Charlie Nieland

The 2020 totalitarian takeover didn’t stop Lusterlit mastermind Charlie Nieland from making another album: he pretty much did it himself, with a little help from outside. His latest release, Divisions – streaming at Bandcamp – is much more lush and majestically textured than you would expect, considering the circumstances. Predictably, it’s more guitar-centric than Lusterlit, although the songs are just as darkly luminous, with echoes of 80s goth and 90s Britrock. And they’re catchy as hell.

His trebly guitar through a cheap amp explodes into a majestic roar in the slow, swaying opening anthem, Always on Fire. Kleptocrats in basic black populate this grim, arson-infested gentrification-era Brooklyn tableau. Nieland is a one-man band, blending all the guitars, bass and keys, with a rotating drum chair shared by Brian Geltner, Billy Loose and Lusterlit’s Susan Hwang.

Nieland’s icy chorus-box chords and keening slide lines linger over hypnotic, suspensefully droning bass in the album’s title track: if Wire played long songs with an American accent, this might qualify as such.

Exploding is a catchy, bulked-up, artfully layered powerpop ballad. Violinist Heather Cole and cellist Patricia Santos build a lushly orchestrated coda in The Falling Man, which could be the Jayhawks taking a stab at a mid-90s Blur song. Then Nieland strips down the sound for I Refuse, a buzzy fuzz bass-driven new wave tune that wouldn’t be out of place in the Dada Paradox catalog.

He builds an insistent, minimalist menace before bringing the echoey guitars into The Land of Accidents, a broodingly rhythmic existentialist exploration. Meta Incognita, a metaphorically loaded explorer’s tale, has a tricky 15/4 beat and lush synth orchestration over insistent guitars.

Another Night on Earth is slower and starrier: the Eels meet Stereolab. Tightrope is not the ELO classic but an original, and it’s the album’s catchiest anthem, Hwang a one-woman choir wafting overhead.

Then Santos becomes the orchestra in Skin, a dreamy ballad, the Smiths without the pout. Nieland turns up the chilly guitars in So Few Have So Much, a swaying, syncopated dreampop song.

The allusively ominous Some Things You Keep to Yourself and the album’s closing cut, Pawns, could be late-80s Siouxsie with a guy out front – and superior production.

Northern Noir Band the Sadies Leave Us With What Could Be The Best Album of 2022

Guitarist Dallas Good said that his band the Sadies‘ new album Colder Streams was the best record they’d ever made. They began recording it in 2019. Good and his bandmates had to sneak across provincial borders during the tyrannical Canadian lockdown to finally finish it in the summer of 2021. Too bad he didn’t live to see it. The lethal Covid injection killed him at 49 this past February.

The Sadies put out a ton of good albums, both under their own name as well as backing Neko Case. They started out in Americana, somewhere between Nashville gothic and punkgrass and by the time they wrapped up this one – streaming at Bandcamp – they’d gone in a more electric, psychedelic direction. Dallas Good was right: this is the Sadies best record. More than that, it’s a potent, metaphorically chilling historical document and arguably the best rock album of 2022.

The opening track, Stop and Start perfectly capsulizes the band’s sound in their final days: dense, reverb-drenched layers of jangle, clang, swirl and occasional scream from the Good brothers’ guitars over the precise, swinging groove of bassist Sean Dean and drummer Mike Belitsky. It may or may not be a lockdown parable – either way, it offers guarded hope for a new future:

The sickness comes like a rising sun
Now your war is done, what have you become?
Are you too far down to stop right now?
You can start right now
Stop and start right now

Is it a surprise that the next track – released as a single this past winter – would be titled Message to Belial? “The dark of all ages has come,” the band harmonize somberly over a spiky thicket of reverb guitar.in this parable of a less than sympathetic devil.

Dallas Good’s lingering, twangy lines resonate over his brother Travis’ layers of distantly Beatlesque acoustic rhythm in More Alone, an increasingly angst-fueled elegy for both people and places gone forever:

In this day and age
Rage has become all the rage
We choose to behave
Like wolves left to starve in a cage
We keep going in circles around around
Spinning faster and faster and faster
Go round in the end and then start back down again
Looking forward to another disaster

So Far For So Few is a bouncy mashup of bluegrass and Flamin’ Groovies janglerock, growing more psychedelic and enveloping on the wings of Dallas’ soaring lead lines.

Fueled by stark banjo and some intricate guitar flatpicking, All the Good – with the brothers’ mom and dad Margaret and Bruce Good on harmony vocals and autoharp, respectively – is a throwback to the band’s more acoustic late 90s sound.

Jon Spencer guests on fuzz guitar on No One’s Listening, a scorching update on ominous 60s Laurel Canyon psych-folk: “What you don’t know can’t hurt you anymore,” is the crushingly ironic key to the song. You Should Be Worried, a gorgeously resonant open-tuned front-porch folk tune, has even darker foreshadowing: “I’m not worried about you, you should be worried about me,” the band harmonize.

They go back to scampering reverb-plated garage-psych rock in Better Yet, with a tantalizingly blistering acoustic/electric guitar duel. Then they turbocharge the Nashville gothic with silvery sheets of reverb guitar in Cut Up High and Dry before taking a brief, surreal detour into dub.

They keep the scampering drive going through Ginger Moon, with what’s arguably Dallas’ most savage solo here. In an eerie stroke of fate, the final cut is titled End Credits, an intricately layered, Morricone-esque southwestern gothic instrumental. How tragic to see such a great band go out at the top of their game.

The Budos Band Bring Their Undulating Menace Back Home to Staten Island

Most bands tend to mellow out as they get older, but Staten Island’s Budos Band went in the opposite direction. They started out playing a psychedelic blend of Afrobeat with frequent Ethiopiques tinges and then brought a macabre Black Sabbath influence into the mix. They’re got a free outdoor concert coming up on August 4 at 7 PM on their home turf at Corporal Thompson Park, which is close to the Snug Harbor Cultural Center. If you’re not a Shaolin resident, be aware that it’s a good half-hour on foot: hang a right, for starters, after you exit the ferry terminal.

Their latest album Long in the Tooth, arguably their most concise, catchiest release yet, came out during the dead of the 2020 lockdown and is streaming at Bandcamp. This time out the ghosts seem to be dancing in the courtyards of haunted castles on the Ethiopian coast rather than in gloomy Albion. The group open with the title track, guitarist Tom Brenneck building an ominous surf tune way down at the bottom as organist Mike Deller’s keening Farfisa lines float overhead, baritone saxophonist Jared Tankel the smoke peeling off the fire from Andrew Greene’s trumpet.

Track two, Sixth Hammer perfectly capsulizes the direction the band’s taken in the last few years: menacingly looping Sabbath chromatics over a cantering Ethiopian rhythm fueled by the funereal funk of the percussion section: Brian Profilio on drums, John Carbonella Jr. on congas, Rob Lombardo on bongos and Dame Rodriguez on everything else.

They slink their way through the tantalizingly brief Snake Hawk, which could be Beninghove’s Hangmen playing Mulatu Astatke. Then bassist Daniel Foder spaces out his boomy chords to punctuate Dusterado, a slower, organ-fueled oldschool noir soul groove.

The horns take over with otherworldly Ethiopian chromatic riffage over a go-go flavored pulse in Silver Stallion. Haunted Sea could be what an Ethiopian horn band might have done with a dark Dick Dale theme a half-century ago. Then the band shift from dark vintage soul to a brassy Afrobeat blaze in The Wrangler.

Brenneck – who sticks with a vintage, gritty tube-amp reverb sound here for the most part – kicks off Gun Metal Grey with his distortion turned up to breaking point, the horns swooping in with a brooding resonance. To what extent is there bullshit in the next track, Mierda De Toro? The joke seems to be the resemblance to a famous surf song, reinvented as a cantering groove built around a catchy descending bassline.

The most straightforwardly trad Ethiopian themes here are Budonian Knight and the closing cut, Renegade, Deller’s funeral-parlor organ and Brenneck’s icepick wah guitar building to a surreal dubwise break and then back. How great is it to have these amazing, darkly individualistic instrumentalists playing live shows again!

A Darkly Psychedelic, Brilliantly Epic New Album From the Frank Flight Band

It takes a lot of nerve, or just plain honesty, to call your new album’s opening number The Odyssey. In eighteen minutes, the Frank Flight Band validate that, as they veer from snarling Stonesy rock, to heavy soul, swaying country clang, an electrified raga and a searing guitar boogie on the way out. This music isn’t for people with short attention spans, but their new record, Impossibly Obscure – streaming at youtube – could be the high point of an already brilliant if underrated career. And that includes the apocalyptic, visionary Remains album as well as the more Doors/Santana-influenced Outrunning the Sun.

On one hand, you could make the case that the Frank Flight Band are the British Blue Oyster Cult. But the Southport-based group are a lot more diverse, and lyrically sharp. Guitarist Frank Flight is neither the lead instrumentalist nor the singer in this project, but instead surrounds himself with a shifting cast of musicians who bring many different shades of brilliance to his darkly psychedelic, frequently epic songs.

The group’s latest addition, keyboardist and lead singer Michael Woody Woodward contributes that first magnum opus. We hear the ocean lapping the shore as the first anxious, spare twin-guitar theme flickers into focus in this metaphorically bristling, desperate account of disaster and a herculean effort to reclaim lost time. Lead guitarist Alex Kenny fires off one slashing, succinct, Gilmouresque lead after another over Danny Taylor’s spare, melodic bass and Dave Veres’s understatedly colorful drumwork.

Taylor’s strutting bass pushes the second track, Well Connected, a snarling broadside aimed at a corrupt, sinister Boris Johnson type, Woodward’s organ and synthesized orchestration over the snappy forward drive.

Flight flings out icily luscious layers of jangle and clang to open Dead on Arrival, a practically thirteen-minute opus that evokes the Doors as much as his band’s own magnificently ominous Dark Waters, from the Remains record. The contrast between Kenny’s purist, piercingly bluesy leads and Woodward’s symphonic sweep, a persistent trope throughout the album, comes into sharp focus here.

The band switch between a relentlessly creepy, crawling chromatic theme and Lynchian Orbison noir sweep in Not If But When, an allusively imagistic portrait of a world at the edge of collapse. This could be the theme song for 2022.

They make a big, emphatic psychedelic anthem out of a vintage 60s soul tune in Medicine Man, a cautionary tale about pharmaceuticals (the kind people do for fun) with a spiraling Woodward piano solo. Flight adds layers acoustic guitar and mandolin to the sepulchrally ringing mix in Tango for Lost Souls, a gorgeously swaying coastal tableau: “Haunted eyes turn like daggers when the music starts to play.”

The band take a surprising turn into brisk folk noir to introduce the final cut, Man in Red, then rise to an angst-fueled 6/8 sway on the wings of Kenny’s incisive volleys of blues. We’re about halfway through the year and there hasn’t been a rock record released this year that can touch this. Fans of the visionary dark psychedelic classics: Floyd, the Doors, peak-era Nektar, and the first four BOC records will love this album.

Klezmer Music For a Chinatown Street Fair and the Horror Show in Canada

One of New York’s most unusual and enjoyable street festivals is happening today in Chinatown. That neighborhood doesn’t have many, because pretty much every day is a street fair down there. This one is on Eldridge between Division and Canal, outside the Eldridge Street Synagogue. The music starts at noon with iconic klezmer trumpeter  Frank London‘s Klezmer Brass All Stars, followed by the  Klezmographers with violinist Eleonore Biezunski and tsimbl player Pete Rushefsky, and then flutist Chen Tao and his Melody of the Dragon  Chinese traditional ensemble playing lively, verdant pentatonic folk songs. This blog was in the house (or more accurately. under the eaves across the street) to catch their set here four years ago and it was a lot of fun.

The Klezmographers, who specialize in obscure Ukrainian klezmer repertoire, are also fun. The last time anyone from this blog was at one of Rushefsky’s shows, it was at a gig at the now-discontinued Friday night concert series at the American Folk Art Museum back in 2014. Memory is a little hazy on whether it was an actual Klezmographers gig, or Rushefsky with his flutist wife: that night turned out to be a pretty wild one.

Rushefsky put out a handful of records back in the zeros with his Ternkova Ensemble. The most recent album he appears on is Toronto group KlezFactor‘s new Songs From a Pandemic Winter, streaming at Bandcamp.

The first song is Mardi Gras Fever Dream, with Mike Anklewicz’s soaring tenor sax, Jarek Dabrowski’s chicken-scratch guitar, Paul Georgiou’s clip-clop hand drum and Ali Berkok’s roller-rink organ fueling a playfully surreal mashup of Balkan cumbia, New Orleans second-line jazz and Eastern European Jewish folk music.

Rushefsky’s somberly rippling tsimbl opens Lake Michigan Klezmer Fantasy, Anklewicz switching to clarinet alongside Kousha Nakhaei’s violin for this wistful theme: Canadians have had an awful lot to mourn lately. Third Wave Lockdown opens with a twisted sample of Fidel Jr. reading from his World Economic Forum handler Chrystia Freedland’s script. Then Graham Smith’s snappy bass kicks in, Anklewicz launches into a peppy clarinet tune, and Jarek Dabrowski channels David Gilmour at his most majestic. Just like the truckers, these guys aren’t going to let fascism get them down!

Nakhaei plays what sounds like a stark chinese erhu in the polyrhythmic Winter’s Groove, as the band shift from cumbia to a bit of what sounds like a bulgar dance, to dub reggae. Singer Melanie Gall brings somberness but also a soaring, hopeful vibe to a final waltz, Oyfn Veg Shteyt a Boym, a spare, vivid arrangement of a chilling parable of exile and improbable escape. In 2022, this song couldn’t be more relevant. May we all fare better than that withered tree in the Yiddish lyrics.

A High-Voltage Klezmer Twinbill in the East Village on the 15th.

For those outside of New York, Midwood is a comfortable tree-lined Brooklyn neighborhood full of single-family woodframe homes (and unfortunately now, McMansions where some of those homes once stood). It has a robust Jewish population. This blog’s owner used to live there.

There was also a band called Midwood, led by a prime mover in the New York klezmer scene, violinist Jake Shulman-Ment. He’s playing on a killer twinbill on June 15 at 7 PM at Drom, leading his Fidl Kapelye with a global cast of klezmer singers: Zhenya Lopatnik, Sarah Gordon, Margot Leverett and Lorin Sklamberg, Klezmatics trumpeter Frank London‘s Klezmer Brass Allstars, who have become epically symphonic in recent years, headline; you can get in for $20 in advance.

Midwood’s mostly-instrumental album of electrified klezmer art-rock , Out of the Narrows came out in 2018 and is still streaming at Bandcamp. Guitarist Yoshie Fruchter machete-chops acidic, clanging chords as Shulman-Ment blasts through a thornily ornamented chromatic dance melody over drummer Richie Barshay’s scampering forward drive in the first tune, Isaac. Then it’s Fruchter’s turn to wail, scream and peel the paint off the walls

Anxiously allusive violin dances over a spiky, loopy guitar phrase and creepy glockenspiel as the group make their way into the second track, Ansky, Fruchter alternating between jangle and crunch as Barshay supplies a lithely boomy groove. It has a very late zeros/early teens Tzadik feel.

The group follow a slow, broodingly resonant trajectory in Ahava Raba: it sounds like Big Lazy with a violin, no great surprise considering that Fruchter would eventually work with that group’s mastermind, Steve Ulrich. They takes it out with a growling, bluesy Fruchter solo and a splash on Barshay’s gong.

Eléonore Weill sings the bittersweet love ballad Dortn over Fruchter’s starry, wide-angle tremolo guitar. The group reinvent Bughici Nign, a famous Romanian Jewish theme, with a lingering spaciousness but also an expectant unease. From there they segue into the similarly stately Bughici Khusidl: it’s cool to hear a distorted guitar behind Shulman-Ment’s meticulous melismas.

The next track, simply titled Waltz has a familiar minor-key feel, in the same vein as another hyphenated guy, Avi Fox-Rosen‘s work, reaching a scorching klezmer-metal peak. It’s the high point of the album.

Weill reaches for a stern intensity as the band sway precariously behind her in Az in Droysn. The closing cut, Gute Nakht is a gorgeously slow waltz and a good closer to this underrated gem of a record.

El Perro Bite Into a Classic Acid Rock Sound

Radio Moscow‘s Parker Griggs is one of a rare crop of guitarists who’s figured out a way to use Jimi Hendrix as a stepping-off point without sounding like a pale imitation. This summer Griggs is touring with a new band, El Perro, whose debut album Hair of El Perro is just out on limited edition multicolored vinyl and streaming at Spotify.

It’s an interesting new direction, a little closer to funk or heavy latin soul than Radio Moscow’s Hendrix-baked heavy psych. The lineup here includes former Radio Moscow drummer Lonnie Blanton, bassist Shawn Davis, guitarist Jaron Yancey and percussionist Tawny Harrington.

With the album’s first track, The Mould, the band work their way up from a skeletal, nimble intro to fuzzy, heavy wah heavy riffs: nothing fancy, just straight-up catchy early-70s acid funk before Griggs goes flying off the hinges.

Track two, No Harm, is closer to the group Griggs made a name for himself with: Band of Gypsys with some killer Niagara Falls barrel-rolls from Blanton and searing, speaker-panning guitar leads. Imagine early Santana with twin leads, minus the organ, and you get Take Me Away: this is one of those great songs that you don’t realize is just a one-chord jam until it’s almost over.

Griggs and Yancey ride the wah pedals, across the speakers and back throughout track three, the instrumental K. Mt. Is that a real keyboard or just a guitar patch bringing back the vintage Santana vibe in the fourth tune, Breaking Free? Hard to tell.

They hit a dirty, refreshingly noisy 70s acid rock strut in Crazy Legs and follow it with Sitar Song. which sounds like one of those ridiculous effect-fixated rare singles you find on the Brown Acid compilations.

Volume knobs, rattletrap drums and then pure supersonic venom all figure in Black Days, the delicious twelve-minute epic that winds up the record: the dip to a squiggly bass-and-drums interlude sets up a memorable duel on the way out. There’s also a bonus track, O’Grace – with riffage like these guys have, who needs chord changes?

After an insanely slow start to the year, we are starting to be deluged with new rock records and this is one of the best and most psychedelic of the bunch. El Perro’s next unrestricted show is June 7 at around 10 at Growlers, 1911 Poplar Ave. in Memphis, Tennessee; cover is $15. Hometown heavy psych band Dirty Streets headline and make a great segue.

Slashing Twin-Guitar Intensity on Jane Lee Hooker’s New Album

Jane Lee Hooker play a snarling, distinctive mix of gutter blues, retro soul music, psychedelia and 70s acid rock. Their latest album Rollin’ – streaming at Spotify – is their most ambitious, soul-oriented and strongest release yet.

They open with Lucky. a heavy soul anthem. Frontwoman Dana Athens’ raw, impassioned vocals ring out in between stomps from the guitars of Tracy Hightop and Tina T-Bone Gorin. As bassist Hail Mary Zadroga and drummer Lightnin’ Ron Salvo lay down a lithe, incisive 6/8 groove, the two guitarists diverge into separate channels, flinging bits of blues at each other and an exchange of solos from simmering to savage.

That slashing, conversational dynamic recurs memorably throughout the rest of the record. Athens punches in on both piano and organ on the second track, Drive, a seething retro 60s-style soul tune. They follow a twisting trajectory in Jericho, from a brisk anthem down to a lull, only to explode out at the end.

The band bring a restless, relentless energy to a well-worn gospel-tinged soul jamband sound in Weary Bones: if only the thousands of other groups who play this kind of stuff could steer clear of cliches as well as this crew do.

They hit a roaring, catchy early 80s-style powerpop drive in All Good Things, then slow down a little for the organ soul tune Mercy Mercy Mercy, a vehicle for Athens’ powerful pipes. Then the band’s two guitarslingers switch out their electrics for an acoustic and a National steel model in White Gold, a delta blues stomp.

The rampaging boogie Runaway Train comes across as a more jagged, female-fronted take on peak-era 70s Blue Oyster Cult. They close the album with Mean Town Blues, a deliciously unhinged, stampeding gutter blues tune with the album’s longest guitar duel.

Jane Lee Hooker are on European tour right now. Their next restriction-free show is on June 7 at 8 PM at Samlingsstuen, Andresens Købmandsgård 4 in Kerteminde, Denmark; cover is 250 kr.