Listen to me folks, GET THIS ALBUM! I know it’s my job as some high fallutin’ music writer to come up with a bunch of stuff to say about music. But after listening to Painkillers, if I were you, I’d skip all the gabbing and just go get it. And then find the biggest, loudest audio player you can procure and crank it to 10. If you want to flatter me, come back and read the rest at some other point.
The merging of Black Diamond Heavies keys player James Leg with the dirty punk blues duo Left Lane Cruiser known as Painkillers is not a cover album. No, it’s a concept album. Yes, it is made of all covers, songs like “Come to Poppa” made popular by Bob Seger, “When The Levee Breaks” by Led Zepplin, but this is a concept album in the truest sense. Concept is what so many albums are lacking these days, and how this album takes a rag tag of recognizable songs from the rock and blues worlds and makes them into a remarkable collection that marks the most viscerally-satisfying album I have heard so far this year. Wanton, ribald, reckless, and uninhibited, Painkillers will have you slam dancing and pissing off the neighbors.
Painkillers isn’t just a catchy idea to sketch some cover art around, it is the idea this album is built from, to take a bunch of timeless, kick ass songs, give them the dirty, heavy-handed Left Lane Cruiser/James leg punk blues treatment, with the result being an album that is perfectly concocted to kill pain. That’s what’s so genius about it. If they had released a batch of original songs under this concept, the painkilling would just be a placebo. By taking songs we all know and love already, songs that mean something to us, the medicine is potent, fast-acting, striking right at your gut.
How’s the instrumentation on the album? The approach? Dirty. Real dirty. Nasty, filthy. All the songs are awash in a mess of gritty reverb and distortion. Don’t come here looking for any lightning-fast chicken-picking licks to tinkling of keys, this is about immersing you in a wall of sound. And though the nasty, dirty punk blues approach may not be for everyone, the song selections are. Pure genius went into picking these songs. For me personally, I didn’t care for some of the blues standards, but “Chevrolet” made famous by Taj Mahal, and The Rolling Stones’ “Sway” are two of my favorite songs of all time, and to hear the James Leg/Left Lane Cruiser tandem do their worst with them was a gift tantamount to a pull of nectar from a goddesses nipple.
One word of caution: Yes, Painkillers is habit forming. (Come on, did you think I was going to make it all the way through this review without some drug cliches?) And just like many albums that pull you right in on the first play, Painkillers can lose its potency rather quickly. But after you set it down for a few days, you will find it calling you back once again.
No joke, if you’re depressed, lonely, angry, sad, whatever, as prescribed, Painkillers will get you to feeling right.
Two guns up!
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An outright street fight of mammoth proportions is breaking out on Music Row in Nashville, the legendary stretch of asphalt where many of country music’s major labels hold their headquarters. The brawl is pitting two of Music Row’s heaviest hitters against each other, Mike Curb of Curb Records, representing the old guard and the heavy-handed restrictive way of handling artists, and the up-and-comer, Scott Borchetta, the Country Music Anti-Christ.
The two Nashville-based record labels, located mere blocks from each other are lobbing competing Tim McGraw radio singles at each other like grenades, a very unique and virtually unheard of scenario in music. McGraw, who was signed to Curb for some 20 years, signed with Borchetta’s Big Machine label last month. At the press conference announcing the new McGraw signing, Borchetta hinted competing singles may be released, and today made it official when Big Machine announced that they will release “Truck Yeah” from McGraw on Tuesday, July 3rd.
Curb, who had been holding back McGraw’s last album Emotional Traffic in hopes to indefinitely extend his contract, immediately began releasing singles from the album as soon as they lost a key court battle that allowed McGraw to record with another label. McGraw has a current single from Emotional Traffic “Right Back Atcha Babe” out right now, climbing the charts. Now the two singles, the two labels, and the two men, Borchetta and Curb, will be competing for the attention of the general public.
This development is very significant for Music Row, a usually tight knit fraternity of music business colleagues. Now you have arguably the two most significant Music Row citizens duking it out. Many major labels have satellite offices on Music Row, but are based in other cities like New York, LA, or London. Curb Records and Big Machine are the two major Nashville-based, independently-owned labels that call Music Row home.
“Truck Yeah” also marks a significant change in Tim McGraw’s style. Aside from his first major single, the controversial “Indian Outlaw”, McGraw has been known for more serious material, sometimes labeled as the adult contemporary star of country music. “Truck Yeah” with it’s heavy guitar smacks of the arena rock, laundry list songs that have become so popular over the last couple of years in mainstream country music.
Who will win this battle we will have to see. But the most significant development to take away from this is that Music Row now is not only battling the forces from the outside–illegal downloaders, traditionalists mad at the direction of country, artists wanting more freedom, etc.–it is now fighting itself.
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