[15 May 2003]
Having graced the stage of the Grand Ole Opry on a few occasions and touring in Poland and Japan, Trent Summar and the New Row Mob have performed all over the place. Primarily though, the stomping grounds of the United States is the band’s bread and butter. A mix of hard rockabilly and hillbilly rock is what makes the band work on all cylinders, but rarely have the band been caught live for posterity. That is, until now. With the help of DCN, the band was recorded, well, at 12th Street and Porter in Nashville. Instead of performing two standard sets on consecutive nights, the group opted for one lengthy show with nothing left to post-production. What you hear is what you get, sonic warts and all. And from the beginning of the night until its conclusion nearly twenty songs later, one gets the impression it was a heck of a hoe-down.
After asking “Who’s ready to party and raise hell?!”, Summar gets into “The Beat Don’t Ever Stop”, a meaty Southern rocker that brings to mind Nick Lowe in his country/hillbilly phase. The tightness of the band is apparent from the beginning also, with guitarists Philip Wallace and Adam Landry working off each other. The tune brings to Springsteen’s Nebraska when he ran through “Johnny 99”. For the most part though, this is honky-tonk country rock, particularly on the toe-tapper “I’m Country”, which sounds like non-manufactured Music Row music. Michael “Supe” Granda, who was the founder of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils, lends his help on bass and does a fine job. The album is also seamless, which works as fans holler, “Get to the good stuff!”
An early highlight is the track “Paint Your Name in Purple” about the “pretty girls in stock car racin’”. A mid-tempo country pop song with a great twang chorus that brings to mind John Hiatt in certain instances. Most of the songs follow the same simple pattern, but like groups such as AC/DC, if it works then it works. “Too Busy Missing You” draws comparisons to the Georgia Satellites circa Open All Night, a laid back roots country number about, well, missing somebody. “New Money”, which was #1 on the Americana Charts, is par for the course—another crunchy country hillbilly rock effort. Summar uses the same line introducing each song, telling the audience they may have heard the song on a plethora of music video channels. “It Never Rains in Southern California” is the first obvious breather on the record, but isn’t worth skipping as it features some great guitar solos.
An early highlight is the infectious “Metal, Stone, Glass and Wood” which is very tight, showing how 13 to 14 years on the road has its benefits. “Colene”, which Summar says is a love song about his cousin, demonstrates the more than capable rhythm section of Granda and drummer Dave Kennedy. The Leiber and Stoller penned “Down Home Girl” is a murky funky song that is surprisingly out of place. Summar does his best to make the song his own, but the arrangement is a bit out of the norm for the band. The group gives it a lengthy homage at nearly six minutes. Another surprise comes in the Chuck Berry-like rocker “Lookout Mountain”. But if you listen closely enough, it also follows in synch with Spinal Tap’s “Gimme Some Money”.
The album also contains six bonus tracks, including the roots rollicking “She’s a Woman”, a song that is yearning to be a single. But the crowd-pleaser is the crowd favorite “The Dope Smoking Song”, not to be confused with the Marilyn Manson number of a similar sounding title. Bar-soaked and reeking of a small waterhole, Summar drops Merle, Willie, Johnny, and others in a song that mixes hash and George Jones. “We’ll be higher than a hippie on a helicopter ride”, Summar sings. While not as cerebral as Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 and #35”, it has the same message. A cover of Nick Lowe’s “I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock ‘N’ Roll)” signals the beginning of the end, a fan favorite that the band does nothing original to. After “High School Confidential”, it’s all over. A fine collection of hillbilly or “farm rock” by this well polished barroom band.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/summartrent-live/