Monday, September 3, 2012

Review: Painkillers by Left Lane Cruiser and James Leg

I have been a fan of both James Leg aka John Wesley Myers of the Black Diamond Heavies (except on their second album where he is credited as James Leg, I am just as confused as you.) and Left Lane Cruiser for little while now.

I discovered James aka John..etc at the Schlafly Tap Room when they were opening up for Excene Cervanka and the Original Sinners. Even though they were a fairly heavy band without a guitar player, I ignored that slight against nature and bought their album.

Left Lane Cruiser I discovered via Amazon's recommendations. When I saw that James had guested on a significant portion of their latest album, I was sure that I needed to purchase it. I was correct! Those tracks gave me an inkling of what could be.

Left Lane Cruiser, like the Black Diamond Heavies, is a duo, but instead of a piano and drums, they're a guitarist and drummer. Those three tunes though, they were magical to me. They were big and full and full of mojo. I thought that if James would quit the 'Heavies and join Left Lane Cruiser full time, I'd be happy...

Freddy, James, Bren
Needless to say, I was quite happy when I heard that they would be releasing an album together. I was a little less than thrilled when I heard it was a cover record. I was nearly thoroughly disappointed when I discovered that it was a blues cover record and that they had two other guys playing along with them on bass and harmonica.

I just love the openness that these two bands create, and besides, James Leg plays a bass keyboard like Ray Manzerak of the Doors did, but I still plunked down my ten dollars when I saw Left Lane Cruiser at El Lenador and took home the CD.

Even though personally I'm not a big fan of blues, but growing an appreciation, I really enjoyed this record. It was released on Alive/Naturalsound as all of the records of these two bands have been and it sounds like one of their discs. (I have about 10-12 CDs released on this label.)

It's rough. It's harsh. What it has is an amazing power of immediacy. From the first chords of "Sad Days, Lonely Nights," I was completely hooked by this record.  It sunk its hooks into me and has yet to let go.

For 10 tracks this album took me on a ride that I never wanted to get off. Unlike Left Lane Cruiser's last album, Junkyard Speedball, this sounded exactly like when I saw them live. The guitars sounded like they were going to split the amp at any minute, the drums felt rickety, and James's piano sounded anywhere from a baby grand to a circus instrument to an overdriven guitar.

James and Freddy both handled vocal duties and they traded off on the last track on the record, "Sway" which was a wonderful way to end it. It gave me the capping feeling of Stevie Ray Vaughn's "Riviera Paradise" off the "In Step" album.

All in all, this is a great album. Between their playing John Lee Hooker, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and more. They did every song justice as they played them as  hard and as  heavy as they can with their own personal style. These two acts really melded well together and I can only hope that it leads to a future collaboration down the road with all original songs.

Genre: Blues
Year: 2012
1) Sad Days Lonley Nights
2) She's Gone
3) Come To Papa
4) Red Rooster
5) If 6 Was 9
6) Shake It
7) Ramblin' On My Mind
9) When The Levee Breaks
10) Sway

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