The Fabulous Ripcords. VooDoo Girl (independent). This band nails the art of variety on their latest album. One song feels like it’s drawing from the church scene of the 1980 film The Blues Brothers, the next takes you to the Big Easy and, following that, you’re caught up in an Eagles- or Santana-like jam. Still, all the pieces fit.
Righteous organ bellows on the twist-inducing opening track, “If You Love Me,” complemented by Irv Lyons’ distinct and slightly gritty vocals. The growly undertone to his voice sounds like the softest grade of sandpaper gently smoothing away the final imperfections on a glass-like plank of wood.
When Pete McMahon joins the boys—which also includes Irv’s cousin Rex Lyons, Scott Ebner, Jay Gould and Phil Regan—on “Bake Me a Pie” and “VooDoo Girl,” it’s easy to see why the harp-melting, vocal-slaying local music man was sought out for the tracks: McMahon adds richness to the pre-established vintage sound.
Other striking guest contributions come from the skin-hitting Liz Strodel, tenor-blower Dugan Henhawk and the smokin’ slide guitar of Colin Aberdeen, who are all sincerely thanked in liner notes that demonstrate the beauty of modesty. The Ripcords take all the space they’ve got to point to the talents of others on the disc, rather than harping on their own, which is, by the way, worth mentioning. Regardless, the Ripcords let their own talents shine through the music rather than words.
Most of the album is upbeat and danceable with the greatest exception being the lustful “Burn This House Down”. Western influence comes through free of disguise in “Rock, Sand and Gravel,” and “Senorita” is kept burning hot thanks to Strodel’s solid salsa beat and steaming guitar and keys solos from the guys. “I’m Through” features a fiery Aberdeen in a song that reeks of bitterness (“I’m through/ I’m through/ I’m so over you”), and Henhawk rips up and down his tenor sax for a memorable solo on the jumpy “Swing Thing”.
Picking a favorite track depends on personal style preference, but “Caroline” is a steady contender with its retro reminisces to 1970s-era rootsy rockers such as The Eagles, The Band or the Allman Brothers, with some jazzy New Orleans funk bouncing off the keyboard. The throwback leads into the lively title track “VooDoo Girl” and the album concludes with the swing-dance-worthy “Jenny Lee”.
Get ready to bust a move when listening to this disc. It’s tough to sit still when the Ripcords’ beat keeps telling you to move.
Johnson & Company. Funky Guitar Man (independent). A little bit of harmony warms the blues right up on Johnson & Company’s new album. Terry Johnson’s lead vocals have a truly great timbre, smoky enough to give him blues chops but wistful enough to show some soul. It’s just a shame we don’t get a little more of them on “Wanna Take a Little Ride,” a catchy standout track. Pat Morreale’s drumming syncs in without a single seam and John Jarvis’ bass sets a cozy mood. The gradual build on “Blues Train” makes for some serious head-nodding and toe-tapping, which features a few harmonica blasts provided by Ted Toscano (“a blues brother,” according to Johnson) that spice things up. The track is just one pair of leather pants short of sounding like a Jim Morrison ditty when it breaks back down, but it works because the harmonica returns in the finale and takes no prisoners. Overall, Johnson & Company delivers a satisfying blend of straightforward Americana and bike-season solos. Come for the rock, stay for the roll.
Jack “Penetrator” Lipton. Forgotten Boy (Rockinnn’ Records 002). This is rock‘n’roll, honey, and sometimes an album opens with sirens and police blotters. Lipton’s latest is one of those cellblock jam sessions that starts with a bang and carries out like a sentence. Be-bopping keyboards supplied by Mark Doyle on “She’s Gonna Remind You” balance out Lipton’s swampy bellow and give the song a more breezy feel than other tracks like the stompin’ “#1 Band in Town” and “What She Said.” Lipton delivers consistent two- and three-minute tunes that take enough liberties in tempo and rhythm to keep them interesting, especially on “What She Said.” Only once does the band wear listeners a little thin: “It’s My Life” could have worked just as well at four minutes as it does at nearly seven. Still, Forgotten Boy makes you want to kick back with a beer and a burger and enjoy the fact that people are still making good ol’ rock. If you have any doubts, at least Penetrator’s got you covered.