Last Chance Records/At The Helm Records
A Ragged Glory of a Rocking Country Album.
Eric Ambel? Never heard of him? But I guarantee that you have ‘heard him’ as he was the Joan Jett & the Blackhearts guitarist when they were famous, then besides playing on numerous albums as ‘guitar for hire’ he came to my attention first via the Del-Lords and then one of the greatest live bands ever….The Yayhoos with Dan Baird and Keith Christopher.
Oh; and he’s a Producer extraordinaire too!
But that’s the past, this is now.
Even though he was busy beyond belief, when his favourite NY bar The Lakeside Lounge closed down he was left with innumerable memories of playing there and also seeing loads of bands, famous, infamous and many long forgotten; but most importantly it gave him the idea to record an album under his own name as a tribute.
Opening track Here Come My Love, written by his Del-Lords bandmate Scott Kempner sets the scene perfectly, sounding like the type of sloppy Saturday night Honky-Tonker the Lakeside and a million other bars like it was famed for; but listen a second time and you will find there’s not a note out of place and the band have actually perfected the art of making Rock & Roll sound so simple.
I can’t help but smile every time I hear Let’s Play With Fire; obviously the song tips it’s hat to the Johnny Cash song but this witty and razor sharp modern Country Classic from the pens of Jimbo Mathus and Robert Earl Reed is perfect for 2017 in a way the ‘original’ isn’t.
Mathus’s ‘production’ is truly amazing; a mix of super-high-resolution digital sound then mixing it all to analog; and as Ambel says in the liner notes “this is for people who break in their own jeans!”
That motion to perfection comes across perfectly on the multi-layered Don’t Make Me Break You Down and later on the moody Buyback Blues……hear them on headphones and you will never listen to Pink Floyd again!
Ambel has the art of making brand new songs sound like you’ve known them all of your life, which actually makes the two cover versions fit in perfectly. I first heard Gillian Welch’s Look At Miss Ohio by a band called Ox and Ambel also gives this already sad song an almost claustrophobic feel; and not for the first time shows Neil Young how a dirty guitar should sound….and he makes it sound scary a couple of times.
The other is the Soul classic Money, which Ambel and friends turn upside down and inside out but keep the dance beat going all the way through 3 and a half glorious rocking and rolling minutes.
Ambel’s trademark guitar licks and Jimbo Mathus’ dangerously observant lyrics are the reason Hey Mr. DJ is by far and away my favourite song here; and one I expect loads of other ex-Bar Bands to pick up and include in their own sets.
LAKESIDE isn’t an attempt to top the Pop Charts or any such; it’s a true labour of love that will find it’s way into loving homes all over the world that will treasure it and whisper about it to like mined music fans in an almost conspiratorial manner……just like when we were all discovering music in our teens.
Released April 28th 2017