(Crow On Ten, CD)
Burlington's ballsy "truck-stop rockers" Chuch are making a name for themselves with high-octane, country-tinged tunes that detonate on impact. Boasting 17 screechin' and squealin' cuts, the band's latest, Four Tall, is the audio equivalent of skidmarks on blacktop.
Following a brief bluesy intro, the record blasts into high gear with the smokin' "Satan's Chariot." The tune features the wild pedal-steel stylings of Matt Hayes, who attacks the instrument with diesel fury. The following track, "Shiffy Man," contains drug references that I can't quite figure out, but I sure am curious. With creepy vocal melodies and Skynyrd-gone-gothic breakdown, it ain't your average country-rock anthem. Suffice it to say, the song probably won't garner airplay on WOKO anytime soon.
"Easy Things" cranks along with a wicked shuffle, augmented by edgy pickin' and sonorous pedal-steel lines. The surprisingly sweet vocal harmonies occupy some parched space between Ween and the Flying Burrito Brothers. "Bloodshot & Tired" takes a similar tack, albeit with red-eyed, vitriolic vocals. "Yes, I might need to cross that yellow line/but that's for me to decide," its ornery protagonist states. I wouldn't want to be following this dude's 18-wheeler on a deserted highway.
The raging instrumental "Dolphin Head" is what Led Zeppelin might sound like if they were rodeo wranglers instead of billionaire Brits. "Gene's Greasy Boots" showcases the powerhouse drumming of Justin Crowther, whose maniacal fills are nicely augmented by his brother Noah's rugged bass lines. You can add these two to the list of deadly sibling rhythm sections. Guitarist/vocalist Chad Hammaker turns in stinging leads throughout the album, with a style somewhere between Western bluesman Jimmie Vaughn and psychedelic sludge bands such as Blue Cheer. A bruising combination, for certain.
One of my only complaints about Four Tall is the somewhat brittle production. The vocals, drums and bass are warm enough, but the guitars are often too trebly. While the recording attempts to capture the band's straight-ahead live sound, sonic sweeteners such as panning, strategic EQ or even reverb would go a long way.
Despite these minor issues, the disc is terrific. It's a banner season for Vermont music, and Chuch are one of the most interesting acts currently working the clubs. Be sure to catch their CD release party with The Fandanglers on Saturday, October 8, at Nectar's.