New York Music Daily

Global Music With a New York Edge

Tag: twang rock

Girls Guns and Glory – Don’t Let the Name Fool You

Don’t let the fratty name scare you away: Boston band Girls Guns and Glory have a lot of good things going on, if you like your powerpop with a country twang. Their album Sweet Nothings came out early last fall – it’s driving music with country-flavored vocals and tunes that evoke both C&W and Cheap Trick. Ballsier than Deer Tick and the Mumford clan, infinitely smarter than the Drive By Truckers, the album has fat, big-room production values – even the handclaps have a ton of reverb on them. This band is all about the tunes: sometimes the lyrics are surprisingly and memorably thoughtful, other times they’re pretty meh.

The opening track, Baby’s Got a Dream, sets the stage for the rest of the album, a big anthem with lusciously liquid organ and watery chorus-box guitar. And a wistful/bitter lyric:

She loves me not
Pick up the petals and watch them drop
Pick them back up, needle and thread
All stitched up, play the game again

The album’s title track is a shuffing boogie tune, followed by the beefed-up rockabilly song Nighttime (as in “nighttime is a hard place to be, that’s where the demons find me”). After that, there’s the slow ballad Last Night I Dreamed (nighttime is a recurrent theme here) with warm washes of steel guitar, then the snarling powerpop song Mary Anne with its artfully kick-ass layers of electric and acoustic guitars. As a kiss-off song, it doesn’t waste time getting to the point, and it’s the album’s strongest track.

Root Cellar sounds kind of like Creedence doing Hank Williams – but with vocals that are actually understandable. 1000 Times evokes the BoDeans, as does the bitter backbeat rock tune This Old House. Snake Skin Belt brings back the rocking Hank Williams vibe, with a cool, Brian Setzer-ish guitar solo, while Not a Girl Left in the World is wickedly catchy, purist highway rock that strongly reminds of the Del Lords (who have a long, long-awaited new album in the works). Some people will call this stuff bar-band music – and the band name won’t discourage anybody from making that assumption. But this is a style of music where everybody sounds a little (or a lot) like someone else – that’s why, when it’s good, like with this band, it’s a lot of fun. Fans of loud, energetic acts who bring a rock influence into country, or vice versa – the BoDeans, the Newton Gang, the late, lamented Hangdogs – should check them out.

Old Favorites and New Ones

Last night was all about discovery, and rediscovery. The first was five-piece rock band the Downward Dogs, who ripped through a smart, diverse, energetically jangly set of southwestern-tinged rock at the National Underground. Fronted by an animated guitarist who goes by the name Joe Yoga, the band puts a unique spin on Giant Sand style desert rock via an excellent two-piece horn section (tenor sax and trumpet) with some neat, terse charts by the sax player. Backed by an imaginative, tight drummer and a nimble bassist whose tensely rising, trebly lines enhanced the suspenseful ups and downs of the songs, Yoga led the band through a mix of big swaying anthems and quieter, more brooding material. Every single song in the set was good. The lyrics were intriguing. This being the National Underground, it wasn’t easy to hear them: between the dodgy sound mix and the noisy yuppie puppy crowd who’d come in from Long Island to see the whimpering wimps who played beforehand, it wasn’t easy to hear anything, particularly the pensive, sometimes smoldering sax parts. Random, ominous images cut through the roar: the only thing left standing on 93rd St. (yikes!); someone waiting for something awful to happen; the impossibility of getting away with something, “a couple of years after the war.” A refreshing social awareness made its way to the surface: “I am revolution, and I am dead, but I never felt better,” Yoga hollered sarcastically over the dramatic whoosh of the cymbals at one point. The songs ranged from punchy, syncopated mariachi-flavored rock with swirling trumpet, a couple of warmly bouncy Wallflowers-style soul-rock tunes, a couple of pensively expansive anthems that wouldn’t be out of place in the Oxygen Ponies catalog, and a biting garage rock number to close the set on a high note.

After the Downward Dogs, Tom Clark & the High Action Boys played Lakeside. Clark is an artist in the purest sense of the word. Was he going to wait til eleven to hit the stage like most of the Friday night acts here do? No way. He went on early so he and his tight-beyond-belief four-piece band could take their time and mix a few choice covers into the mix along with some new material and familiar crowd-pleasers. Clark isn’t unknown to an international audience: among New York musicians, he’s universally respected . As one audience member remarked, astonished, he manages to play lickety-split yet soulful lead guitar and sing at the same time, and write excellent songs, with good lyrics. It was good to hear that he’s finally going back into the studio next month for a new album, because the new material is characteristically choice. A lot of the songs were upbeat highway rock tunes, but the band varied the dynamics, breaking one down unexpectedly into an almost reggae interlude. The biggest hits with the crowd were New Toothbrush on Your Sink, with its wickedly catchy Flamin Groovies vibe, and If That’s Country Music, I’d Like to Know What Country It’s From, a viciously spot-on commentary on what gets played on “country” radio these days. In between verses and choruses, Clark spun off one lightning-fast solo after another, switching effortlessly between bluegrass, staccato Buck Owens riffage, blue flame Rolling Stones vamps and incisive janglerock. Lead guitar might be a dying art – for the prissy boys of Bushwick, guitars are decor for fashion shoots – but then again, it was ten years ago when Clark was packing crowds into Manitoba’s to watch his fingers fly. The covers were great, too – Albert Hammond’s It Never Rains in Southern California, with the excellent bassist doing the original riffs note-for-note; a similarly edgy, uneasy take of Danny O’Keefe’s Goodtime Charlie’s Got the Blues and “a song Elvis Costello covered,” an understatedly intense Good Year for the Roses. Clark is upstairs at 2A this Sunday the 16th at around 8 with Lenny Kaye playing pedal steel, plus an expected cavalcade of similar NYC rock luminaries.