The Del-Lords - Elvis Club
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Elvis Club (Lakeside Lounge/GB Music, 2013)

The Del-Lords

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

For its first album in 20 years, the Del-Lords haven't so much resurrected the band's original sound as they have taken all their experience since then and processed it through a time machine blender, resulting in a new batch of songs that are as powerful and immediate as anything from their heyday without sounding dated in the least. Founding members Scott Kempner, Eric Ambel and Frank Funaro are all along for the ride, which is one of gutsy roots-rocking fervor combined with a sense of humor rendered more cynical with age.

Opening track When the Drugs Kick Instorms out of the gate with a trademark Del-Lords guitar riff that could have come off any of their early albums along with the call-and-response vocals between Kempner and the rest of the band; given the checkered history of most rock 'n' rollers one has to wonder if the paranoid yet boastful lyrics are tongue in cheek or autobiographical, or a bit of both.

Though their deeper roots were in the punk band The Dictators, The Del-Lords have always had a twangy side. The flagship country-rocker here is Flying, featuring the more plaintive vocals of Ambel, who knows a thing or two about twang as he's best known these days as Steve Earle's guitarist and a go-to producer for roots-rock outfits of all stripes.

The band isn't mired in the past, or their past sound, as much as they might nod to it throughout these songs. Me and the Lord Blues is a searing electric blues number, while Letter (Unmailed) is a lilting country-folk tune with Kempner's Lou Reed-esque vocals up front and center. They close things out with a version of Neil Young's Southern Pacific that proves Young could easily call upon the Del-Lords if for some reason Crazy Horse wasn't available, and they weren't having so much fun playing their own songs again after all these years.

CDs by The Del-Lords

Elvis Club, 2013

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