Tag Archives: Eric Ambel

New Album! Christine Ohlman

All Hail The Queen!

Fifteen years removed from her debut album, The Hard Way, the Beehive Queen has not only recorded her strongest effort to date, but an album that should pepper several best-of lists in December. The songs on The Deep End draw as much upon gospel and urban doo-wop as they do blues and Americana, perhaps reaching the apex on the hypnotic title track.

Ohlman and her band Rebel Montez (now Michael Colbath, Larry Donahue, Cliff Goodwin) are rock-solid, and if you’ve not heard Ohlman’s gripping vocals before, I can’t totally blame you. Despite enough industry cred to fill multiple warehouses, she might best be known for being a long-time member of the Saturday Night Live band. Of course, you’d have to be attending the taping to hear her; seldom will you see any of the non-sax playing musicians get highlighted.

I first discovered her thirty-odd years ago when I was enamored with the cast and crew at Big Sound Records, whose albums featured stellar musicians like G.E. Smith, Jon Tiven, Mickey Curry, Ivan Julian, Roger C. Reale and Ohlman, among others. Producer extraordinaire Thomas “Doc” Cavalier had a golden ear for quality, and his work on Big Sound was the stamp of approval for me in the same way that Motown or Stiff were when in their prime. Sadly, just about all of that music is out of print.

I like all of her solo work, but this one really speaks to me. Ohlman suffered two big losses in her life recently – guitarist Eric Fletcher and Cavalier are no longer with us – and the ache resonates in her voice. Stellar guests like Dion, Eric Ambel and Al Anderson provide great support, and Ian Hunter producer Andy York continues his string of sympathetic collaborations with his artists. But Ohlman and her band had this one nailed from the jump.

Read my review of this album at PopMatters.

VIDEO: “Like Honey”

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The Del Lords Ride Again

And the great news just keeps on coming…

The Del Lords, one of the true seminal American rock’n’roll bands, are back. Not for an oldies tour, not for money, but for passion. As Scott “Top Ten” Kempner says in his blog, it’s time. There is still work to be done. “There are still souls to stir and asses to kick. There are still songs that need to be sung.”

The Del Lords don’t sing about fluff, they sing about love and pain and hurt and fear and abandonment and rising above the bullshit. They frame the gospel of rock and soul in twangy roots-rock, take the stage as brothers and preach their message. They made their run, an oasis of wonderful music in a confused time, and then got out on top to follow their separate paths. But now, it’s time to suit up again. It’s time to join hands and minds and accept that challenge that drives all great artists. It’s time.

How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live?

Well, Scott laid it all out there in his blog:

Right now, I’m watching the telethon for Haiti, and Bruce has just finished a version of WE SHALL OVERCOME that was somber but clarion, resolute but compassionate, gospel and the blues. I felt my soul stir as the song ebbed and flowed, and at the way Bruce and the band rode the moment with all this compressed emotional energy, in a way that is everything you can ask of a singer, a musician, an artist, or a song. I am immediately in touch with why I do what I do, and why The Del-Lords are making new music, sharing a stage, hell, sharing a room, for the first time in 20 years.

To actually do what I just watched Springsteen and the band do is HARD, way fuckin’ hard, damn near impossible, in fact, and, to be fair, it requires more than a fair share of magic. But, it also requires some other things. Like band chemistry, the kind born of respect, a strong work ethic, and some familial love; born of common purpose, mutual belief and shared experience. AND, we love playing Rock’n’Roll. And so we do. Again…

First Jason and The Scorchers get back together and release a new album, and now The Del Lords are back as well. Maybe 2010 isn’t going to be so bad after all.

Here’s a link to Scott’s complete essay.

Listen to one of the new songs and order your EP here.

(And thanks for the tip, Maniac, you made my day!)

When the going gets tough, so do they.

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Blast From The Past: The Del Lords

Real American Rock'n'Roll

Real American Rock'n'Roll

Twenty-five years ago, a working man’s band swam upstream against the tide of electronica, arena rock and Euro-noodling to smack America upside its head and start the rock’n’roll bandwagon rolling again. Scott Kempner (“Top Ten” from The Dictators), Eric Ambel (fresh from Joan Jett and The Blackhearts), bassist Manny Calati and drummer Frank Funaro were NYC guys who thought the segregation of music into genres was absurd. They knew that rock’n’roll came from country, blues and gospel, and so too would their sound.

Call it roots rock, cowpunk, or Americana if you want to, but The Del Lords wrote heartfelt songs about the struggles and joy of life and played them with passion and fire. The first track from this debut album is the brilliant “How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live”, and if you need to define the band by a single moment, that’s as good a definition as any.

When Frontier Days announced their presence, radio didn’t get it. But those of us who were yearning for honest rock’n’roll were thrilled to climb on board for the ride, a journey that would last through five albums and a lifetime of memories. Lou Whitney‘s bright production showed off the stellar guitar work of Kempner and Ambel, and while the four vocalists didn’t quite live up to Kempner’s goal of an “East Coast Beach Boys” (and didn’t The Four Seasons already own that title?), the vocals were solid and the album filled with melodic, hooky pop songs filtered through their barroom rock sound.

While millions of teenagers were pumping their fists to Bon Jovi’s “Living On A Prayer” in arenas around the world, The Del Lords were singing about the real adult world with “Livin’ On Love” and “Double Life”. Anyone struggling to get through life, their job, or even their day could appreciate “Get Tough” and “Pledge of Love”; even the comic “I Play The Drums” deals with channeling frustration through music rather than pounding someone in the face. But don’t be fooled by that levity – these guys were as urban, gritty and streetwise in their way as The Clash were in theirs…not to mention Springsteen, Dylan, Presley and other American icons.

Kempner went on to release two excellent solo records and joins The Dictators when they get together; Ambel moved on to become an in-demand producer while continuing to make great music in bands like The Yayhoos; Funaro now plays drums for Cracker. But there’s a new buzz a quarter century later, from rumors of a reunion to the reissue of their catalogue (with bonus tracks). There are many bands whose output can be safely contained in a single greatest hits album, some even with filler. The Del Lords are not . Enjoy one of the finest American bands the way they were meant to be heard – in their entirety – and I highly recommend that you start at the beginning with Frontier Days.

The man who inspired their name.

Del Lords info at AllMusic

The Del Lords on Wikipedia

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Under The Radar: The Yayhoos

Yep, despite their rock-solid pedigrees and irresistable nut-crunching rock’n’roll, we Yayhoos fans must admit that our heroes do, indeed, fly under the radar. Apparently we’re a cult, except without the sick twisted part (that’s for Terry to put in the lyrics when he sees fit…)

But dammit, we’re stubborn! So since Terry Anderson just announced a new album is on the way from his other band of gypsies, The Olympic Ass Kicking Team, I thought I’d use that flimsy excuse to wave my flags and banners for these Yayhoos again. And despite what my 2006 review (below, from the UK magazine Bucketful of Brains) said at the time, you can now find most solo and band Yayhoo albums here.

And don’t worry…you’ll be reading about the new OAKteam album here very soon.

 

All Dressed Up for the Love Train...

All Dressed Up for the Love Train...

The Yayhoos: Put the Hammer Down 

The “American Rockpile” strikes again with a solid follow-up to Fear Not the Obvious. And yes, astute fans of both, there were Dan Baird and Terry Anderson and Eric Ambel releases since then to keep us going just like Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds used to do. I wish there was an album a month from these guys, because the pure joy of making music together that bleeds from the speakers is so palpable it’s only exceeded by their collective musical talent.

If you’re familiar with the pedigree of Dan and Terry and Eric and ex-Satellite Keith Christopher, buying this immediately is a no-brainer. For those with more mainstream blood, mix the swagger of vintage Rolling Stones with the sloppy charm of The Replacements and the unbridled alcoholic cool of The Faces…with a little more twang, of course. Songs about getting sloppy, drunk and naked. Self-deprecating band namechecking song. Semi-pensive rock ballads and greasy guitar romps with hillbilly harmony. A love song called “Where’s Your Boyfriend At?” – now that’s a special Yayhoo kind of love. And for you jukebox jimmies, raucous covers of “Love Train” (a song they were covering live long before the Coors commercials, by the way) and the B-52’s “Roam”. The Yayhoos prove that having fun and making great music are not mutually exclusive efforts.

Tough to find, since it was recorded in Brooklyn and released on the small label named after Eric’s swank Alphabet City watering hole Lakeside Lounge. But the hunt brings a great reward. Go get it.

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