The best band to ever come from Fort Wayne, Indiana, released their 8th record back in June, their 6th on Alive Naturalsound's label. I’ve been so enthralled with Dirty Spliff Blues that it’s taken four months to compose my thoughts on it. There is so much beauty in all that audible crunch, wholly satisfying. Carrying the torch while simultaneously worshipping at the altars of Burnside, Belfour, and Kimbrough, the band has simply made the best record of 2015. All the while donning homemade instruments and a purely intoxicating mix of trance blues, distortion, fuzz, punk sneer and fuzz glorious fuzz is the summation of Left Lane Cruiser -- The Neckbones and early Mudhoney had a barrelhouse baby with Jesse Mae Hemphill while Fred McDowell is ripping slide solos in the background.
The familiar hellfire of Fredrick “Joe” Evans IV’s custom howl, catchy chord progressions and dubious slide work with the new additions of Joe Bent and Pete Dio (White Trash Blues Revival) has added copious amounts of boom bap, smooth as butter bass lines, and my new favorite instrument—Bent’s homemade lap steel concocted of two strings, a skateboard deck, a humbucker, and a Red Stripe bottle to add the twang. Sounds gimmicky when written, melts your head when heard, there ain’t a gimmicky piece of dust even settled in the Left Lane Cruiser tour van.
Drenched in the DIY ethos of sharecroppers and their diddly bows, a homemade instrument made from wire and two nails usually held fast to the siding of their house. They’d strum and use a bottle or a hambone to emulate the sound of their juke joint heroes on the cheap. Noted first ‘instruments’ to Robert Johnson, R.L Burnside, Fred McDowell, and virtually every Hill Country hero we hold high and mighty. Dio has an entire arsenal of homemade percussive instruments as well; you want a certain sound, do it yourself. It’s not a state of mind, it’s a way of life.
From start to finish Dirty Spliff Blues is a shack breaker. The opening riff of “Tres Borrachoes” nestled sweetly in the breast of Dio’s kick drum sets the course for is the best representation of modern punk blues played in the Hill Country style with just enough poor white boy angst. It’s just shy of 40 minutes of pure glory. From the weed loving trio of numbers, “Tangled Up In Bush”, title track “Dirty Spliff Blues”, and “Cutting Trees”, to the atypical bluesy storytelling of “Skateboard Blues”, where Evans tells the story of Bent’s skatedeck lap steel and just where the skateboard blues were born. It’s the power trio to end all power trios. The Black Keys wear Left Lane Cruiser pajamas when they go to bed. And they don’t rip off Junior Kimbrough!
(+words by scott zuppardo+)
*Originally published at No Depression 11/17/15*