The music on City Out of Luck mixes Punk Rock intensity and unaffectedness with the dusty, workingman Classic Rock sincerity of Springsteen and Tom Petty. The end result is a little rootsy, but still hard-driving, egalitarian and straight-up, shit-kickingly rockin'.
Singer/guitarist Max Fender has a voice made for Rock & Roll singing his smoky rasp is perfectly suited for giving soul to the band's tales of drinking and working too much. Bassist Joey Beck and drummer Tim Colina are a flawless rhythm section, able to steer the band with grace and creativity even when running full-throttle.
They're also impressively versatile (as is the whole band), able to be more than just a backdrop whether the band is going full-speed or winding it down, as they do on the banjo-laden, acoustic-driven "Catch Me If You Can." The guitar work is also noteworthy, as Fender and Clay Cason weave their distinct styles together in intriguing ways, blending more trickling lead riffs with the sideways, angular bombast of chords.
Opening cut "Mexico" sets the tone with its stomping Roots Rock vibe and lyrics about escaping psychic pain by running or just drinking it all away. "Whiskey and Gin" rides on shuffle beats and features some impressively twangy guitar work, while the propulsive "Killer" chugs and slashes with desperate, end-of-the-work-day blue-collar reflections ("Chemicals then sleep/You sow then you reap"). "Soldered" closes the album on an acoustic note (with some twilight organ slathered overtop), as Fender sings about "hoping for greatness but setting up for disaster."
The themes of inner turmoil and working hard but drinking harder rarely vary throughout City Out of Luck if you're looking for an emotional pick-me-up, you'd be better off listening to funeral marches. The booze-as-salvation concept does wear thin after awhile (we get it alcohol dulls the pain), but the strong songcraft and inherent power of the band's raw yet precise instrumentation more than make up for it. And the way Fender delivers the vocals is convincing enough to make you want to slip a few fliers for the local AA meeting under his door.
There's no shortage of former Punk rockers going a more "Americana" route these days count Alone at 3AM as one of the better groups making a more than convincing conversion. Save a spot for this one in your record collection between Drive-By Truckers, The Constantines, Ryan Adams and Lucero. (aloneat3am.net)
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