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Garage rockers tap into
Americana rock & roll

Soledad Brothers - The Hardest Walk
(Alive Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Mar. 16, 2006
Soledad Brothers

Review by Tony Bonyata

You ever notice how similar rock & roll is to Taco Bell? Using the same, simple ten ingredients or so, those cunning scientists back in the Taco Bell laboratory somehow manage to keep coming up with new menu ideas by simple changing one or two ingredients, adding a double tortilla wrapping, deep frying it, slathering on an extra dollop of sour cream and, viola!, a hot new menu item for the masses. The hot new item on rock & roll's menu is a tasty platter from the Detroit trio Soledad Brothers entitlted The Hardest Walk. On it this radical collective incorporates some of the strongest and most essential ingredients of rock music, such as the bluesy, drunk swagger of early Rolling Stones, the stinging vinegar of the New York Dolls and the sloppy, implosion of Iggy & The Stooges, which the opening stomper "Truth or Consequences" liberally and successfully borrows from the lot.

Emerging from the second wave of American garage rock that began in Detroit around 1998 (the first wave beginning in '65 and '66 with bands like The Sonics, The Count Five, The Seeds and 13th Floor Elevators) The Soledad's had the luxury of riding shotgun into the media's attention with other gritty Motor City rockers such as The White Stripes, The Dirtbombs, and The Greenhornes. While their first three albums reflected the raw, garage-rock that was reverbing out of Detroit at the time, their fourth and latest full-length effort is more akin to the base elements of rock & roll that the best acts of the '60s and '70s all incorporated at one point or another.

"Sweet and Easy" is brimming with the glammed-up pomp of early '70s T. Rex, while the harrowing Delta blues of "Let Me Down" finds vocalist and guitarist Johnny Walker making some kind of deal at the crossroads with his devilish slide and moaning cello. The trio also adds a touch of stripped-down psychedelic country-folk on the closing track "True to Zou Zou," while not forgetting to also inject the dirty side of pop-rock on the hopped-up numbers "Loup Garou" and "Good Feeling." Just as The Stooges added the free-form squonking, psychotic jazz number "L.A. Blues" to their 1970 Fun House album, the Soledad Brothers also throw in their own version of this style of cacophonic music on "White Jazz," only having the smarts to keep this type of thinking man's noise to just under a minute instead of the rather painful five minutes of The Stooges' original. On the number "Crying Out Loud (Tears of Joy)," not only does Walker's voice sound reminiscent of an early Jagger, but the earthy blues also mirrors that of The Stones' country-fried 1968 album Beggar's Banquet. In fact, the entire feel of the Soledad's record lands somewhere comfortably between The Stones transition from the country-blues honk of Beggar's to the more refined sense of pop-rock perfection on their 1969 follow-up Let It Bleed.

Sure the music on The Hardest Walk isn't any new revelation in rock, but with the Soledad Brothers wrapping all the right ingredients into one enticing dish, you'll be more than pleased with the whole enchilada here.

The Soledad Brothers will be performing Thursday, March 16th at Empty Bottle in Chicago, IL and Friday, March 17th at High Noon Saloon in Madison, WI.

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