-- Live Blues World
Well, they don't come around very often, but it was great to catch them as Black Diamond Heavies and Left Lane Cruiser stormed into New York. Left Lane Cruiser hit the stage first, and played a fantastic set that ripped through a combination of rockin blues covers and originals. I was amazed at their intensity, and at the power of the riffs throughout their set. They pulled the crowd out of their chairs and filled the room with their punk blues sound.
Then came the Heavies. I haven't actually seen John and Van play as the Heavies since Mark Holder left the band. Suffice to say, John plays those keys like a man possessed, with Van keeping a strong, pounding beat that drives through each song. They rolled out a few new songs off of their upcoming new album, and they fit right in with their older material, with some great grooves to keep the crowd moving.
This is one of the best one - two punch shows I've seen in a long time, and I'm looking forward to catching both of them at the Deep Blues Festival in July.
--Brightest Young Things
Ever since Ghost World I have trouble watching white dudes play blues without picturing Blues Hammer, the horrifying electric Down Home Delta Blues band that kicks the authentic blues singer off the stage and out of memory.
Of course they were more Kenny Wayne Shepard than Jon Spencer, but somehow that parody haunts my enjoyment of even the hairiest acoustic freak-folk or punkiest garage band that uses slide guitars and flattened fifths. So even though I enjoyed both bands on record, I went to the January 15th show at the Red and the Black prepared to be skeptical of Left Lane Cruiser and Black Diamond Heavies. Can there be anything authentic about modern honky blues-rock? I’ll skip the suspense and just say Yes, Like Duh, Obviously. If the music is good who cares how authentic it might be? Blues Hammer is terrible because they play hackneyed over-produced and cluttered garbage, not because they have shaved chests and unbuttoned shirts. Though the guys in Left Lane Cruiser certainly didn’t look like poseurs. Lead singer and guitar player Joe Evans’ scraggly long hair and beard paired with his low-brimmed hat and baggy jeans made him look plenty familiar with the ass-ends of America. He and drummer Brenn Beck come from Fort Wayne, Indiana, and their purely primitive stomping and growling reminds me as much of early Stooges in their industrial clangclangbangbang phase as it does RL Burnside. Though they do cover a Burnside song or two, Evans sitting down on a stool and leaning way over the mike, his thumb plucking distorted bass notes and playing slide riffs with his index finger. Beck played one song with one hand while blowing a harmonica solo in the other, and used enough cowbell to kill a Saturday Night Live sketch, but essentially all their tunes blend together, though not in a bad way. I could seriously watch them play Big Momma by itself all night long over and over, though preferably I would be grinding on a BBW while listening to it. See, because, Blues is not like sex. It is sex. Most popular music is based on inserting hints of the blues into other contexts, sexing it up. There weren’t many people there that night, but when Beck stopped the song on a dime and roared “Go on drop it Joe, make these bitches bob they heads bro!” and Joe whipped out a slow funky-ass line, it clearly made everyone within earshot hot enough to hump a rusted-out tractor.