Burden Brothers, Mercy
The Burden Brothers are the creation of one of modern rock's great voices - Toadies' Vaden Todd Lewis - and drummer Taz Bentley, formerly of the Reverend Horton Heat. With a supporting cast of guitar-slingers, they've put out a nearly hour long CD that, unlike many such productions, doesn't get tired halfway through.
Opening with the spooky, Beatle-esque "It's Time," the CD charges ahead with the Foo Fighters-style screamer "Shine" and the infectious, almost old-fashioned melodiousness of "Still." The angst-laden "Everybody Is Easy" is superior, catchy rock despite its vague lyrics.
The polyrhythmic "Trick of Logic," the ballad "Life Between," the Nirvana-inspired "Good Night From Chicago," and the grim "Daughter of Science" all further the story - each song has its own flavor, so the ear never gets tired. The titanic "I Am a Cancer" plunges into heavy metal gloom, and when, in "In My Sky," Lewis grammarlessly screams, "You and me can slip away at last tonight/I can see your stars are shining in my sky," the combination of primal yell with romantic words lays bare the heart of the album. "On Our Own" then tells the other side: "Just wave as you roll past my cloud/We’re all on our own now." But our hero is still wishing on a star. The song has an elegiac quality to it, and seems a natural end to the CD - but two of the best tracks remain.
The thrumming, roiling love song "Oh, Cecilia" couches sentiments of longing in alternately warbling and harsh guitars. "Liberated," a memorable declaration of freedom (with a caveat about high gas prices), is a near-perfect midtempo rock song, earning its full six minutes with a muscled vocal/instrumental hook.
Every track on the CD is worth hearing. Stellar songwriting, crisp but heavy production, and Lewis's roadkill vocals make this one of the year's top rock albums. Its fifteen tracks make a major statement: rock can still rock.
Caddle, Raise 'Em High
Alt.country? Dixie fried roots-rock? Southern boogie-rock skullabilly? Whatever you call Caddle, the Birmingham, Alabama band's debut CD is spring-loaded with southern-rock energy. Think back to the Georgia Satellites, or even Lynyrd Skynyrd, but add a bit of punk crunch and a touch of Big-and-Rich buffoonery.
A chinkling banjo enlivens the humor in the hard-rocking "Better Bad." ("She's got a wiggle and walks with a grin/Where she stops I begin...When she's good she's really bad but when she's bad she's better.") The openers, "Mississippi Doublewide" and "Work," are raucous, defiantly high-spirited blue-collar anthems whose minimalist choruses represent the bleakness of the working man's life. "Stay With Me" shows that the band is handy with a sad love song, too.