Tune Up Steve Ter­rell high­lights new re­leases from blues-punk bands

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Decades ago Muddy Wa­ters pro­claimed, “The blues had a baby and they named it rock ’n’ roll.” I won­der if Muddy knew that well into the 21st cen­tury, the bas­tard off­spring of that un­holy union would keep com­ing.

What fol­lows are re­cent re­leases from blues-rock bands that could be clas­si­fied as “punk blues,” though let’s not get too hung up on la­bels. Un­like the blues rock­ers of the 1960s and ’70s, who wor­shipped at the al­tar of Chicago blues stars like Muddy, Howlin’ Wolf and Sonny Boy Wil­liamson, these newer groups are more in­flu­enced by the prim­i­tive Mis­sis­sippi Hill Coun­try Fat Pos­sum Records ros­ter of the early to mid-’90s (R.L. Burn­side, T-Model Ford, Paul “Wine” Jones). In fact, a friend of mine who caught Lone­some Shack at the Mine Shaft Tav­ern told me they’re the clos­est thing to the late Ju­nior Kim­brough he’s heard in years.

▼ The Switcher by Lone­some Shack. This trio is based in Seattle, but their roots are in New Mex­ico. Singer/gui­tarist Ben Todd spent part of his youth in Sil­ver City and Al­bu­querque. His mom still lives in Dem­ing. In the early part of this cen­tury, he and his girl­friend moved to a trailer in a re­mote part of Ca­tron County, near Alma, N.M. Todd built a lit­tle shed he dubbed “Lone­some Shack” (af­ter a Mem­phis Min­nie song), where he could prac­tice gui­tar and write songs without driv­ing his girl­friend nuts.

Todd wrote all the songs here ex­cept an old gospel shouter called “Safety Zone” (best known in re­cent years for its ver­sion by The Fair­field Four). With Todd’s gui­tar and vo­cals out front, Lone­some Shack can get rough and rowdy on songs like “Di­a­mond Man,” “Mushin’ Dog,” and “Chem­i­cals.” But they aren’t as hard-driv­ing as many of their punk blues peers. Lone­some Shack is a lit­tle more sub­tle on slow burn­ers like the spooky “Dirty Trav­eler” and the al­most noirish “Blood.”

Get lone­some all over at www.lone­some­shack.com.

▼ Sin, You Sin­ners! by The Devils. This is an Ital­ian duo — gui­tar man Gianni Ves­sella and singer/ drum­mer Erica To­raldo — that plays a hopped-up, ex­plo­sive, hell­fire ver­sion of the blues that owes more to crazed punk rock than it does to Hound Dog Tay­lor. Nam­ing them­selves af­ter a clas­sic 1971 Ken Rus­sell movie about a priest who is ex­e­cuted for witchcraft, The Devils per­form dressed as a priest and a nun and play songs with ti­tles like “Coitus In­ter­rup­tus (From a Priest)” — check YouTube for the wild and won­der­ful video of this one — “Shak­ing Satan’s Balls,” “Hell’s Gate,” and “Azazel.” No won­der they caught the at­ten­tion of Rev­erend Beat-Man of Voodoo Rhythm Records. I be­lieve they at­tend the same church.

The Devils are re­lent­less. One song is more thun­der­ous than the last. Cur­rently my fa­vorites are “Magic Sam” (I’m as­sum­ing this is a trib­ute to the late Chicago blues­man, who died of a heart at­tack in 1969 at the age of thirty-two) and, even though it’s barely more than a minute long, “Puppy Nun,” a joy­ful lit­tle rager that opens the al­bum. All in all, Sin,

You Sin­ners! is a blas­phe­mous blast. The devil is in the de­tails, so for de­tails on The Devils, go to www. voodoorhythm.com/127-artists/the-devils.

▼ Beck in Black by Left Lane Cruiser. LLC is a lead­ing light of con­tem­po­rary punk blues, with Freddy “Joe” Evans IV on slide gui­tar and vo­cals and, up to a cou­ple of years ago, Brenn “Sausage Paw” Beck on drums. (When I saw them in Austin in 2014, they also had a bass player who made wild noises on a crazy home­made elec­tric in­stru­ment fash­ioned from an old skate­board and a beer bot­tle.)

This is a strange odds-and-sods al­bum of songs se­lected by Beck. It’s mostly re­mas­tered tracks from the band’s ear­lier al­bums, although six of the 14 songs have never been re­leased be­fore. Among these are “The Pusher,” an anti-hard­drug an­them writ­ten by Hoyt Ax­ton and made fa­mous by Step­pen­wolf back in the late ’60s. De­spite be­ing a Step­pen­wolf fan, I didn’t im­me­di­ately rec­og­nize it un­til well into the first verse. LLC plays it nice and bluesy. The lyrics are prob­a­bly more rel­e­vant to­day than they were in 1968.

An­other song here with a his­tory is “Chevro­let,” writ­ten by Ed and Lon­nie Young but based on a 1930 song called “Can I Do It for You?” by Mem­phis Min­nie (her again!) and Kansas Joe and cov­ered by all sorts of acts, from the Jim Kwe­skin Jug Band (with vo­cals by Maria Mul­daur), Dono­van (who re­named it “Hey Gyp [Dig the Slow­ness]” and took song­writ­ing cred­its) and, best of all, The An­i­mals. LLC at­tack the song with their usual crunch and pow, mak­ing it a high­light of this col­lec­tion.

But I like LLC’s orig­i­nal songs, too. Some of my fa­vorites in­clude “Cir­cus” (even though it doesn’t seem to have much to do with cir­cuses), “Amy’s in the Kitchen” (which starts off with a Tom Waits-like per­cus­sion and vo­cals seg­ment be­fore the gui­tar soars in), and the drum-heavy in­stru­men­tal “Sausage Paw.” Learn more ex­cit­ing facts at www.alive-records.com/artist/ left-lane-cruiser.

▼ Vic­tory Mo­tel Ses­sions by King Mud. This group is ba­si­cally a side project for Left Lane Cruiser’s Freddy “Joe” Evans and drum­mer Van Camp­bell, who plays with a band called Black Di­a­mond Heav­ies (like LLC, on the Alive/Nat­u­ral Sound la­bel). Gui­tarist Parker Griggs from Ra­dio Moscow (also on Alive/Nat­u­ral Sound) joins in on a cou­ple of songs, mak­ing King Mud some­thing of a punk-blues su­per­group.

My fa­vorite Mud songs at the mo­ment are “Smoked All My Bud” (the whole group sounds mean and des­per­ate); the fran­tic “War Dancers”; and the hardrock­ing clos­ing track “Blood River.” Bow to King Mud at www.alive-records.com/artist/king-mud.

Un­like the blues rock­ers of the 1960s and ’70s, who wor­shipped at the al­tar of Chicago blues stars, these newer groups are more in­flu­enced by the prim­i­tive Mis­sis­sippi Hill Coun­try Fat Pos­sum Records ros­ter of the early to mid-’90s.

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