CHEAT THE DEVIL Anthony Rosano & The Conqueroos (Whiskey Bayou Records) *****

Hairy knuckled blues with simplicity, feral power and the ability to raise the dead; that’s what I first thought when I heard this album.  Cheat The Devil is slide powered blues with rock & roll attitude, and it’s an exciting listen.

The band is a trio with Anthony on vocals and guitar, Kyle McCormick on drums and Jake Fultz on bass.  I connected deeply and instantly to Cheat The Devi as Rosano and I share a similar view in regards to music. “As a teenager I was into all the British bands who took their cues from the blues” he says. “I quickly realized that all my favorite songs by my favorite bands were actually blues songs!  The feeling I got from those songs became a kind of spiritual connection.”  That’s how I felt at the age too and, even today, if I hear something that has that blues feel or element to it, I’m drawn right in.

Having said all that, there’s a rough and tumble charm to Cheat The Devil that really tickles my ear hair.  Produced by one time tour mate Tab Benoit this feels spiritually like Humble Pie’s legendary Rockin’ The Fillmore.  I like Rosano as a singer and the rhythm section is solid yet fluid, but it’s the nasty slide work and squalling guitars the really grab you by the collar and say “listen to this!”  This disc is filthy, greasy and it sounds like it came from the wrong side of town… which I mean as a total compliment.  I don’t know what these guys are like live but Cheat The Devil gives you a pretty big clue on that score.  Kudos to Benoit for capturing that raw, savage power on tape and making the heaviest blues record of the year.

Cheat The Devil is one of those rare blues records that will appeal to more than just genre aficionados… it has the reach and the balls to speak to metal and raging rock enthusiasts too.  The way they treat the blues classic King Bee feels like how Humble Pie would’ve done it.  Let’s just call it muscle car blues and play it again, Sam.

HOT TRACKS:  Sweet Little Devil, What Kind of Fool, Rosalita

ROAD Alice Cooper (earMUSIC)   ****

This new record from the Godfather of shock rock, is a face-melter.  According to Wikipedia Road is Alice’s 22nd solo album and 29th overall.  At the age of 75 does he HAVE to keep doing this? Of course not- but lucky for us he wants to.

The Coop’s last hugely successful album was 1989’s Trash, and he hasn’t even had a record go gold since 1991’s Hey Stoopid.  He’s released 9 discs since then and I’ve bought all of ‘em because he still to make great records.  Bob Ezrin produced again as he did on all the classic Cooper group stuff and as he has done again since Welcome 2 My Nightmare in 2011.  The approach to Road, however, was different.  This time Alice wanted to showcase his live band , of which he is justifiably proud; guitarists Nita Strauss, Ryan Roxie and Tommy Henriksen, bassist Chuck Garric and drummer Glen Sobel.  Cooper says the plan was to have them “be involved in the foundation of all the songs”.  He also insisted on no overdubs as “the whole idea of this album is to show off how good this band is live.”  He also said Road is a concept album about things that happen on the road. “There’s a lot of humor in it” he says.  “There’s a couple heartbreakers, but it’s very guitar-driven because that’s what I look for in an album.”

I’ve long maintained that most artists do their best work in the first ten years of their career but well over 50 years into his, Alice Cooper is clearly an exception.  Not everything he’s done since getting sober in the 80’s has been a five star smash, but he continually displays an uncanny ability to come up with the goods.  With 3 hot-shot guitarists at his side Road rocks and it rocks frigging hard.   3 singles were released prior to the album coming out August 25th– I only needed to hear the first one (I’m Alice) to know that I was all in.  Ezrin is a perfect creative foil for Alice and involving the band from the ground floor was a genius move. 

Road is everything you want from an Alice Cooper record; a hard and thick guitar-powered sound with witty lyrics, autobiographical aspects of the disc aside. I’ll leave the last word to Hal Horowitz of American Songwriter; “While Road is no five star masterpiece… it is, perhaps unexpectedly, worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as his best.” Fuckin’ A, Bubba.

HOT TRACKS:  White Line Frankenstein, Dead Don’t Dance, Baby Please Don’t Go

RAISE YOUR HANDS The Scott Weis Band (independent) ****+

This is the 8th studio release from The Scott Weis Band.  With original members Roger Voss (drums) and Robert Kopec (bass) back in the fold, Raise Your Hands is the blues celebration it was intended to be.  Soulful and gritty, is the perfect way to start your weekend.

After years as a gopher at the legendary House Of Music, working his way through various local bands in Jersey then signing with Premier Talent Agency in NYC as a touring guitarist for many blues and rock artists, Scott decided to start his own band in 2005.  The Scott Weiss Band came about because he “just wanted to make a record to describe who I was… music is a spiritual thing for me.”  Raise Your Hands is his 8th disc and he’s shared stages over the years with some real heavyweights; Joe Cocker, Etta James, Buddy Guy and Robin Trower among them.

This album works on so many levels; deep, soulful songs, Scott’s whiskey-soaked Joe Cocker-like voice, and unhurried yet passionate guitar playing- when he bends a note you can’t wait to find out where it ends up.  The overall vibe feels like a mix of New Orleans, the Delta and good ol’ southern Georgia charm.  While the band is essentially a trio they did have some help in the studio from Cindy Mizell on vocals, John Ginty on keys, percussionist Bashiri Johnson and guest vocalist Sarah Smith.  There’s an engaging looseness to everyone’s performances that has an almost ramshackle feel, yet it never spills over into aimless meandering or sloppiness.  It’s a razor’s edge to walk, and The Scott Weis Band does it very well.

Raise Your Hands is a good mix of originals and covers including The Beatles’ A Little Help From My Friends (the Joe Cocker arrangement) and the most powerful version of Have You Ever Loved A Woman since Derek & The Dominoes. This is a potent blues statement.

HOT TRACKS:  Have You Ever Loved A Woman, Shine Down, Raise Your Hands

WALKING HEART ATTACK Johnny Rawls (Cat Food Records) **** ½

Another sweet helping of soulful blues here from the legendary Johnny Rawls.  Walking Heart Attack is slick and satisfying with sweet, smooth playing and Johnny’s unmistakable voice.  10 songs about love won and lost, matters of the heart from every angle, a stone cold groove.

Blues Music Award-winning Johnny Rawls produced Walking Heart Attack and it was  mixed by Grammy winner Jim Gaines so needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway) the sound of this album is immaculate.  With a career spanning over 50 years Rawls must be running on pure instinct by now, and his instincts are good.  The disc includes a number of original songs plus O.V. Wright’s Born All Over, Otis Clay’s Trying To Live My Life Without You and a surprising cover of Springsteen’s Hungry Heart that takes the song from the Jersey shore to the deep south.

Walking Heart Attack is more of a soul record than anything but the way it flirts and dances with the blues is engrossing, with horn charts that never threaten to overpower a song.  Rawls’ band plays for the groove of the song… you don’t find any show boating here, just talented and confident musicians playing for the sake of the songs and that’s a satisfying thing to encounter.  I’ve always enjoyed the velvety smoothness of Johnny’s passionate voice (this is my 4th Rawls disc) which puts him in the same league as the guys from Earth, Wind & Fire.  There’s a classic 70’s feel to songs like the title track but this is hardly a retro record; more of a reminder of the heart and soul of a bygone era.

Johnny Rawls is a soul blues legend with a career spanning more than 50 years as an internationally recognized recording artist, music producer and songwriter who spends lots of time on the road.  Listening to Walking Heart Attack just feels real, real good.

HOT TRACKS:  Free, Walking Heart Attack, Hungry Heart

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