Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Cheetah Chrome's "Solo"

Present at the creation of punk as a member of Bowery-via-Cleveland miscreants the Dead Boys, guitar-slinger/memoirist Cheetah Chrome isn't someone you'd expect to find copiloting a Nashville label with Eddy Arnold's grandson. But there are more things in the world you can imagine, so add Cheetah's affiliation with Plowboy Records to the list.

Plowboy's dedicated to preserving Arnold's legacy and focusing on American music regardless of genre, and Cheetah's teeth-bared brand of rockaroll is distinctively 'Meercun in flavor (Ohio is the secret music capital of our great land). Labelmates include the likes of Buzz Cason, J.D. Wilkes and the Dirt Daubers, and most intriguingly, the Fauntleroys, an underground supergroup that includes Texan national treasure Alejandro Escovedo, ex-Voidoid Ivan Julian, and Steve Wynn's drummer/wife Linda Pitmon. They gots a SXSW showcase at the Saxon Pub on March 15th that looks like it'd be worthwhile if you happen to be in America's Live Music Capital(R) on that date.

Cheetah's Solo is one of the label's inaugural releases, and it's a corker. Three out of seven tracks were recorded in Woodstock back in '96, with Dead Boys producer Genya Ravan behind the board. The rest were done more recently in Music City, with Ken Coomer handling the production chores and backing by the Batusis, the stripped-down four-piece that Cheetah co-leads with ex-New York Doll Sylvain Sylvain.

The organ-driven "Sharky" kicks things off with a li'l surf instrumental action, everything but drums played by Cheetah his own self. "East Side Story" isn't the early Bob Seger song obscurantists might be expecting, but rather a similarly streetwise anthem sung by Cheetah in his ragged-but-right guitar player's voice. "Rollin' Voodoo" sounds like a Bowery transmogrification of "Pipeline," sprinkled with some Nawlins gris-gris, while "Stare Into the Night" and "No Credit'" steamroller the listener with snarling vocals, tidal wave rhythms and twin guitar fury like it was '77 at CBGB's all over again.

"Nuthin'" and "Love Song To Death" trawl the same trough of despair as the Dead Boys' classic "Ain't It Fun," sung with the authority of someone who was there, but thankfully turned back from the abyss. In 2014, Cheetah Chrome's punk swagger comes tempered with a survivor's hard-won wisdom. Long may he run.


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