black diamond heavies - The I-94 Bar
There’s a place where dirty blues, soul and gospel intersect that many aim for but few get near. That James Leg lands in the middle drop-zone with the precision of a BASE jumper on a million dollar bet says you most of what you need to know about his latest solo record.
James Leg - aka John Wesley Myers of the Black Diamond Heavies and The Immortal Lee County Killers - is the bona fide son of a preacher man from Port Arthur, Texas. Armed with a baritone that could knock down a brick wall from 20 paces and a Fender Rhodes, he’s unleashing his third solo album (the last with label mates Left Lane Cruiser in tow.) It’s in similar vein to what’s gone before, but this time with a touch more variety.
Let me start by saying I have been a Black Diamond Heavies devotee since I first heard a bootleg recording of their first album ‘You’re Damn Right”’ way back in 2005. When the latest album by James Leg (aka John Wesley Myers), vocalist, keyboardist and one half of that band turned up for review, I already knew what I was about to hear.
This is without doubt some of the rawest soul/blues/punk rock ‘n’ roll and coolest Fender Rhodes electric piano playing you’ll ever hear, along with the dirtiest Whiskey-smoked growl that has ever been put to tape. Yes, folks, this album is a winner. It’s dirtier and louder than most other things, and just fucking awesome. It’s the future, the past and present, all rolled up into a tight joint, ready to smoke, get high and just rock the fuck out. There are no disappointments here.
It’s album number-seven for Left Lane Cruiser (five on Alive Natural Sound if you count the one they co-recorded with Black Diamond Heavies keyboardist John Wesley Myers) and the sound has evolved to the point where nobody is resting on any laurels.
Left Lane Cruiser were once an amped-up hill country duo playing what they tagged “hillgrass bluebilly”. They kicked out a helluva lot of jams for a two-piece, with fuzz, distortion and a kitchen drawer full of percussion their stock-in-trade. They even lucked out and landed a song on the soundtrack of “Breaking Bad”. Good synchronisation if you can get it.
Hard to comprehend that this is Mark Porkchop Holder’s debut album. He’s a founding and former member of the blues-stomping raunch machine, Black Diamond Heavies, and that should tell you something straight away, even before you play a single track.
“Let It Slide” is roadhouse blues - no, not those “Roadhouse Blues” with the drunken clown out front singing about mute nostril agony. I mean the shit you might hear in little bars when you get off the interstate highways in Tennessee or Louisiana. Best served with a corn dog side dish, grits and catfish fried in possum sweat. As featured on "Man versus Food".
These two discs were each made (mostly) by a two-piece band, drums’n’guitar; and vox and guitars, respectively. They’re both something I wouldn’t have believed possible: successful two-person rock’n’roll that sounds fantastic. Each album does have a few other elements, but they’re precious few and … and again, I wouldn’t have believed it, but … you don’t really miss the others that much. Why?
In King Mud’s case, the songs and the delivery gain, hold and manipulate your attention; their two covers (you should be familiar with at least one) taken over by the Mudders to such an extent they may as well have written it themselves.
King Mud are Van Campbell from the Black Diamond Heavies and Freddy J IV from Left Lane Cruiser. They’re full-on rock’n’stuff, the kind of busy guitar which tells the story, shoves the song forward and devil the details. There’s a distinctive ‘70s American style to the Mudders, but you can clearly hear innumerable UK influences as well.
That this would be very good was a no-brainer. Van Campbell from Black Diamond Heavies and Freddy J IV from Radio Moscow in the same band? Yes, please.
This is raw blues with a dash of soul which is no surprise considering the principals’ main bands.. As you might expect, the band format (it’s not quite a duo - there is a bass player, probably added in post-production) strips it back to basics.