Live from the the Flatiron District, it’s this week’s Indie Round-Up!
Lee Rocker, Racin’ The Devil
Lee Rocker, whose acrobatic slap bass powered The Stray Cats to a handful of retro-rockabilly hits in the early 1980s, is back with a fine solo effort on the blues and roots label Alligator Records. If there’s any justice, the label will be able to give this release a big push.
Rocker spices up his straight-ahead rockabilly with variations both amusing (like the chromatic key changes in “Race Track Blues”) and dramatic (the Springsteen-esque “Lost On The Highway”). His singing voice is mellow but authoritative, his band crackles, and a plain old rockin’ good time is had by all. Highly recommended.
Sarah Woolf, Salutations from Somberville…
Perhaps because she sings quietly, Sarah Woolf’s CD was one of the more undeservedly overlooked indie releases of the last few years. It’s true that the muscular sound of the instruments and the strong writing can be somewhat undercut by Woolf’s thin delivery. Her soft voice serves her better in the more atmospheric pieces, like the sad, folksy “Dear Brian” and the dark “Raining In The Lot,” than in the more pop-friendly songs like the three that open the CD. However, if you give them a couple of listens, even those songs’ good qualities win out, aided by careful production and excellent musicianship on the part of Woolf, co-producer Chadd Ferron, and the accompanying players. The team has a way with moody and varied effects, both within the songs proper and in the non-vocal pieces that open and close the CD.
Highlights include the subtly zany “Neurotic” – which suggests a collaboration between Liz Phair and the Talking Heads – and the drunken Velvety simplicity of “Marie Antoinette.” “Raining in the Lot” worms along like a whispered radiation-shadow of Pink Floyd’s “Hey You,” while “When I Think of You” is a jaunty, rootsy slip of a song that shows Woolf’s range.
This is a CD that, for me at least, took two or three listens to “get.” It’s worth the effort if you like sensitive singer-songwriters with quirky twists.
In the Yours Truly Dept.: your correspondent’s own band, Whisperado, has just released its debut EP. Check it out here.