D-Town 1994 & Comet 1998 / Gonzo 2013
Twang and thump for a bumpy ride from the stalwarts of Californian music.
Having risen from the footnote status in the surf rock as part of THE IMPACTS, Merrell Fankhauser has been making a splash on the waves for many years as a TV show host while never stashing his guitar away. Among the groups that the veteran formed, one stood out thanks to the presence of Ed Cassidy in the ranks, as the SPIRIT skins-hitter was a larger-than-life figure even when he didn’t steal the thunder. Which is the case on this 2CD-set comprising the band’s original “On The Blue Road” and its follow-up “Further On Up the Road” that mix perennials such as “Milk Cow Blues” and “High Heel Sneakers” with the bespoke material written in the same style. When the familiar grounds are being trodden here, the musicians’ excitement is palpable, although it hardly spills out into the listener’s soul, whereas Fankhauser’s own cuts possess many a hook.
Thus, “Hot Night In Louisville” rides a catchy groove and a couple of memorable guitar solos, and is adorned by a nice ivories run from Pete Sears who also elevates the poignancy “Nicky’s Song” in which Merrell pays tribute to another member of his collective, the great late Hopkins. Alongside these, evergreens like “Walking The Dog” or “Bright Light, Big City” sound rather uninspired, but the gentle “Stolen Guitar Blues” offers a true story in the most captivating way. Elsewhere, the booming “Who Shout The Lightnin'” echoes the desperately acoustic “Possession Over Judgment Day” in quite a conceptual way Robert Johnson couldn’t envisage, and “Goin’ Back To Delta” flows like a fine, fiddle-adorned example of country blues as does a slowed-down rendition of Muddy Waters’ “Louisiana Blues.” And, of course, despite its title, “Voodoo In The Jungle” is a prime example of surf, while the tribalism oozes out of “Cassidy’s Big Beat” aimed at that who like a drum solo on a studio record.
The two veterans’ methods meld together on the title track where the thwack matches the twang, and if there was more of this alchemy, the band would have really been special. As is, it’s more a testament to their talents than an adventure.