If you don’t know Left Lane Cruiser, then consider this the first day of the rest of your life. Hailing from Fort Wayne, Indiana, the two-piece powerhouse boasts Fredrick “Joe” Evans II on slide and vocals with Brenn Breck on drums, harmonica and all other make-shift percussion. Combined, these two create a minimalist junkyard blues sound with the snarling attitude of redneck punks. Picture the Black Keys if they were raised on moonshine, mud-womping, and hellish bar fights with a touch of R.L. Burnside on the sly.
I originally noticed the band back in 2009 after listening to their first nation-wide release, 2008’s Bring Yo Ass To the Table on Alive Records. Really, it was my girlfriend who first discovered them but after I heard the song, “Pork & Beans” I was instantly hooked on Evans’ ability to really swing each note into the next on his greasy slide, producing a raw but clear sound absent from any of the manufactured country pop (if you can even call it “country”) on the radio today. Add into the mix songs like the gritty “Amy’s in the Kitchen” with its muddy vocals while Breck plays the cowbell and washboard, or “Busket” with its heavy breakdowns and foot-stomping beat and I knew Left Lane Cruiser was a band to watch out for.
This past March they released their third album for Alive, Junkyard Speed Ball; a hillbilly cacophony of songs ranging from infusing good times (“Weed Vodka”) to late-night shenanigans with a waitress (“At The Denny’s”).
From the moment the single drum kick and high hat start their beat on the opening “Lost My Mind” listeners are instantly tapping their feet in irresistible pleasure as a harmonica melody, reminiscent of a down-home jug band, begins to pick up speed. Then--BAM! The electric guitar slams down with an ornery punch to the face that leaves you begging for more. And just when their audience can’t take anymore these country gents pull a few punches and deliver softer ballads with “Pig Farm,” “Road Again,” and the spirit-fueled, “Giving Tree” with it’s angelic keys flying through the air.
My only two faults with this alum is it’s lack of the washboard sound that littered Bring Yo Ass and Evans use of mic distortion on every track. Don’t misunderstand-- the distorted vocals help give Left Lane Cruiser some of the dirtiest sounds I’ve heard in years. However, at times the vocals can become too muddled, making the listener miss out on the band’s clever lyrics.
That being said, Junkyard Speedball is easily in my top five favorite albums released this year. I already have it on three different formats and have been burning copies to anyone who is even remotely into rock music. This is one speedball you won’t want to pass up.
- Mat Weir