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Album Review

The Kettle Black

I hesitate to use Southern when it comes to these guys because that will have a lot of you clicking on without even a cursory look. Still, listen to a few of the tracks on The Kettle Black and you might think that C-Leb and the boys are straight out of the South, but not that lame South which made Skynyrd and .38 Special headers for grit and raunch. I liked those guys okay, but they wore themselves thin quickly. No, these guys are more of the crank-it-out variety, a mixture of, say, Wet Willie, Georgia Satellites and Eric Sardinas and probably a handful of others out there digging trenches with their guitar necks and beat-heavy rhythms. It is a small handful who do it right, though, and these guys qualify. And they don't make you wait. They kick things off with a slide-ride that would have the dead dancing, if the dead could dance. Call It Love is ready-made for slide-guitar-nirvana and a perfect introduction to C-Leb & the Kettle Black. If you don't like it, you probably won't like the band, but I cannot imagine anyone not liking it, at least a little bit. Me, I loop this sucker when I'm draggin' butt and it so far has not failed to pick me up.

Maybe it's the guitar. Maybe it's the heavy, because these guys are not light in the least. Maybe it's the vocals—- there is a lot of Jimmy Hall (Wet Willie) and a little bit of Chris Robinson (The Black Crowes) in the vocals. Truth be told, I can't quite put my finger on why these guys impress me so much, but they do. To put it simply, they smoke when they want to. They glide when they don't.

They are most impressive when they're smokin' though. There is a lot of R&B there, the crankin' type. Hott Mess reaks of it as does Call It Love and Can't Get That Low. This is take no prisoner stuff, the kind of stuff the real Southern bands used to play. The Celebration is straight-on rock with a touch of Delaney & Bonnie thrown in for good measure. My favorite, though, has to be One For the Road, a medium-beat ride on a musical hog of no mean size. It is wall-of-sound perfection when you turn it up, and I would bet that anyone who really wanted to listen would turn it way up.

Goddamn, but that guitar impresses me. Not that the rest of the band isn't good. Together, they make a statement few bands have or can. In fact, to be fair, it is obvious that any cog missing in this wheel would make for a rough ride. There is nothing missing, though. This hits on all cylinders. All the time.

Hard to believe they're from Seattle. Not many bands pushing the envelope this hard up in grunge territory. Don't make no nevermind, though. These guys could be from Hell and I would listen. As much as I could.

And I am. If you want to crank a little, you should too. This is freakishly good. Maybe even better.

Listen here. They even throw in a few tracks with cleaned up lyrics. So you can play it for your kids. Who will probably be rockin' out right alongside you. The family that rocks together stays together. Sounds right to me.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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