Crankshaft And The Gear Grinders - What You Gonna Do
Take, for example, "Boomtown". This track has a soulful edge, complete with female backing singers, mixed with a slow-paced rock guitar and yet is undoubtedly written in the style of twelve-bar Chicago blues. It is in one sense true blues for it is a lament about the fate of the individual in the world today, a theme to which Crankshaft and the Gear Grinders return frequently. Further influences come as soon as the next track, "Dancin' in the Dirt", a sort of swamp rock which Creedence Clearwater Revival would have turned up.
It will come as no surprise then that the music is deep rooted in the experiences of frontman Alex Larson, the band's driving force. From early days busking for a living to stories of the hard times endured by his family, he writes song which reflect this background. "Trail of Tears" is perhaps the best example of this, a slow bluesy number which has the feel of the road, mirroring the hardship suffered by the unemployed baby boomers seeking a decent life. All the songs have that feel of having been put together in someone's back yard, and yet there is nothing amateurish about any of them. And therein perhaps lies the greatest appeal of the album.
Much of it was recorded in a run down barnhouse and the sound that has allowed the band to create has been something quite special. In the hollow emptiness of that space, the music is allowed to roll around, to flow, and to seep into the timbers and the history before finally emerging into the recording devices to be laid down for mixing. Like the Triffids' album In the Pines which was recorded in the Australian outback in similar circumstances, there is a rurality about the sound, a kind of sophisticated agricultural ambience which pervades the music, not so much blue collar as blue demin dungarees.
As with any style, it does not always work, however. "Kingpin" utilises horns (or synthesised horns) which fail to utilise the space provided by the recording venue and sound too hollow and tinny as a result. Oddly, "I Wanna Play" which follows and utilises a trombone to much greater effect. Perhaps it is the just audible background chatter which makes the sound sound like a drunken bar room finale by a boogie band so tired they can barely play.
"Let Me Love You" introduces yet more influences, starting off sounding more like Cream than anything else and is probably the sole track which could be described as an out and out rocker, unless you count the 42 second jam which follows it called "Please Don't Leave".
What You Gonna Do is the band's second album and is well worth a listen. Perhaps a tad too long, it sounds like one of those albums which was fun to make. The second half tails off a bit, though the final track, "Barkin' up the Wrong Tree", is probably the album's best with its almost military style drumming and its urban blues/roots ambience. What You Gonna Do is an album of different styles melded together well, an album for the urban lifestyle of the twentieth century which can still recall the hardships of a more rural life.
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