Who stole the Soul Asylum?
A local musician whose opinion I respect claims this record from a couple of ex-Trees members grows on you, but so does hair until you go bald. That isn't necessarily a knock: The album's opener, "Joe Connely," comes on strong enough, followed by two songs that prove it misleading at best, and a handful that live up to their side of the bargain.
But music's a visceral romance that should impact you the first and last time you hear it no matter the qualifiers (good, bad, or otherwise), and Pat McKanna's songs have always been so subtle they were good even when they were bad (or is that the other way around?), and most of the time they were otherwise in a very big way. Lockjaw's no exception, even with the obvious nods to Neil Young and Uncle Tupelo that make this band sound like Soul Asylum circa Made to Be Broken.
This isn't the stuff of revelation by any stretch: McKanna's woman wants to dance, and he just wants in her pants; he drinks gin, she drinks juice; song titles include "Goes Around Comes Around", "Hate Myself," and "Kill You Tonight," McKanna being a songwriter never too ashamed to plumb the clichs and insist they're brand-new; and the concept of an amplified roots-rock band hasn't been a concept since the third Byrds record. But if you're going to indulge yourself, you might as well fill the glass until it overflows.
I'm not sure what's to be gained from the covers of "Green Onions," "Little Wing," and "When a Man Loves a Woman," not when the echoes of the originals drown out any and all reproductions, but Andy Timmons has never been the blues purist this record would like to suggest he might be. Rather, Timmons is a rocker who comes to the blues secondhand, a guy who plays the notes fluidly and clearly and fills in the spaces between them with the broad flourishes that come easily to a man who bounds between metal, jazz, and pop when he's not slumming in the tradition and sharing lead with a Hammond B-3.
This isn't tradition, but a fanciful recreation and sometimes a worthy interpretation: "Loosen Up" is credible Fabulous Thunderbirds; "Little Wing" owes more to Stevie Ray (and Sting, and Bon Jovi) than Jimi; "Night Train" rumbles along without ever jumping the tracks; and "When a Man Loves a Woman" gets it right by allowing Timmons' guitar to fill in the space where the vocals ought to go. The originals usually don't disparage the covers, either, especially the ones written by Hammond player Tommy Young--the one fella in the band who understands that when it comes to the blues, the funk sometimes originates from the organ with the keys and not the organ in your hand.
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