True gritHealthy White Baby - Healthy White Baby
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Nov. 23, 2005
Review by Tony BonyataRising from the nicotine-stained ashes of his former band - the Chicago-based insurgent country outfit The Blacks - singer and guitarist Danny Black has given rebirth to his music with a new trio, which he's christened Healthy White Baby.
On their self-titled full-length debut Black has saddled in two other like-minded talents -vocalist and bassist Laurie Stirratt (from the Oxford, MS roots-rock band Blue Mountain) and drummer Ryan Juravic. What's surprising, however (considering their alt-country backgrounds), is that the ten songs featured here are more of return to the roots of American '60s rock & roll than the country and blues that spiked both Black and Stirratt's former musical ventures.
Inspired by the simplicity of early Velvet Underground and Creedence Clearwater Revival records, Black and company decided to go into the studio and hammer out their songs in a no-nonsense fashion - as just a stripped-down rock trio of guitar, bass and drums, with no overdubs or fancy bells or whistles. The result is an album that goes down like a double shot of sour-mash moonshine first thing in the morning; it's rough and abrasive but definitely wakes you up with a swift kick in the pants.
From the skittish beat, scrappy Keith Richards-influenced guitar and Black's gritty vocals on the opening number "Soul" it becomes immediately apparent that these three have come to rock. Checking their country and mountain-music at the door, Healthy White Baby instead fling open the garage door to introduce themselves as bona-fide garage rockers. Songs such as "Who What When Or Why" with its dirty swagger, the foot-stomping rock of "Home" and the rockabilly vibe that haunts "Look You In The Eyes" trade off the gritty influences of early '70s Stones with pre-Nevermind Nirvana and The Cramps - had they been around in the '50s to record in Sam Phillips' Sun Studio.
Even when they dig deep into their older influences when they cover bluegrass legend Bill Monroe's "With Body and Soul" their sinewy rock treatment turns this country number into a bluesy alt-rock dirge. But instead of ringing a death-knell, this song, as well as this entire collection of inspired, passionate garage rock, is instead a welcome birth announcement for a promising new trio.
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