On his third full-length release for the Hyena label, the twangy, barroom rocker Grayson Capps sticks to what he does best: He delivers achingly spare slide guitar, locomotive-strength driving blues and keenly drawn portraits of the characters that populate his New Orleans and Southeastern stomping grounds, in a sandpapery growl that's at times hushed and at times a thunderous roar. Like his previous effort, Wail and Ride, Rott N'Roll puts more hard guitar meat on the skeletal country-blues sketches he debuted as a solo artist on If You Knew My Mind, but something about Rott N'Roll has a pleasing playfulness " in contrast to Wail and Ride's intensity " that seems born of comfort. The record's homey ease comes from the inclusion of rollicking, everybody-yell-the-chorus humorous numbers like 'Big Ole Woman" and 'Gran Maw Maw" alongside expertly whittled pieces of folk blues like the gorgeous 'Arrowhead," which features angelic guest vocals from Shannon McNally. One of the finest examples of the unfettered, joyful vibe is the hard-rocker 'Sock Monkey," penned by guitarist Tommy McLuckie (who thanks AC/DC in the liner notes), which grinds out power chords under lyrics like 'Sock Monkey " got X's for eyes." The album could do without the Beat-poet gravitas of the incongruous spoken-word piece 'Fear Fruit Bearing Tree" ('Our life is an illusion/ And we create the confusion/ So take a dose of seclusion/ To dilute the delusion"), but the rest of the record is a joy. It's easy to just snap your fingers, sip your espresso and wait for it to segue into 'Sock Monkey."
If You Should Ever Fall on Hard Times
After Hurricane Katrina, the venerable Iguanas fell on hard times. Members scattered after the storm, but the band spent a lot of time in Texas, and provisionally repatriated only in the odd, no man's land of frequent touring. The group also parted ways " with hard feelings " with sax player Derek Houston, after 15 years together. If You Should Ever Fall on Hard times, released in early October, is the veteran group's first effort since the pre-K Plastic Silver 9-Volt Heart, and stylistically, it's a natural follow-up, even if it's a long time coming. The 2003 album was named for a song of the same title co-written by Iguana Rod Hodges and veteran California roots-rocker Dave Alvin, and the freewheeling Tex-Mex rock 'n' roll of Alvin's seminal Blasters remains a big part of the Iguanas' sound. Combining Spanish-language lyrics and mariachis with New Orleans funk, big Texas beats and sly, sexy Latin shuffle, If You Should Ever Fall on Hard Times serves up a pan-cultural hybrid of exuberant rock audibly shot through with the energetic joy of having finally stitched themselves back together and come home. The appearance of alt-jazz percussionist Anthony Cuccia on several tracks adds an extra layer of rattling, thumping, throbbing flavor. The band gets extra credit for rhyming 'Chalmette" with 'coquette."
Cedric Burnside and Lightnin' Malcolm
2 Man Wrecking Crew
North Mississippi duo Cedric Burnside and Lightnin' Malcolm appear so often in New Orleans, at d.b.a. and the Maple Leaf, it's easy to feel as if they're almost locals. Besides 93-year-old guitarist Dave 'Honeyboy" Edwards, the pair was hands-down the highlight of the recent Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival. Their aptly named debut album, 2 Man Wrecking Crew, reproduces the unleashed, more-than-the-sum-of-its-parts furor of their rough-and-ready live show. The powerhouse duo holds a solid line back to the raw simplicity of traditional hill-country blues while reaching into the psychedelic stratosphere. Their bio backs them up: drummer Cedric cut his teeth in his early teens playing for his late, irascible grandfather R.L. Burnside, the artist who launched the quirky Fat Possum label and who also experimented with adding contemporary sounds to classic blues with his well-known '90s remixes, done in collaboration with the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Fiery guitarist Malcolm has played with hill-country legends including Jessie Mae Hemphill, Otha Turner and former Howlin' Wolf sideman Hubert Sumlin. Together, the two young turks of the blues have released a debut that's not only reassuring but inspiring to die-hard fans.