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Studebaker John

Old School Rockin'

(Delmark; US: 21 Feb 2012; UK: 9 Apr 2012)

If this is old school, I wanna go back.

With an album titled Old School Rockin’, you might expect Chicago’s Studebaker John to be well versed in the kind of tired rockabilly and boogie-woogie tropes that White Men Of A Certain Age seem especially responsive to. Happily, though, this record is refreshingly free of cliché. Sure, there are plenty of familiar-sounding song titles (“Rockin’” crops up three times, “Boogie” once) but the tunes themselves are more inventive than one might expect.


“Disease Called Love” is a sinewy, midtempo guitar workout, while “Fire Down Below” wastes not a second of its six-minute running time. Nothing feels rushed here; even the uptempo songs—which are many—often check in at more than five minutes, leaving John and his band (Bob Halaj on bass, Albert “Joey” DiMarco on drums and Doug Organ on, uh, organ) plenty of time to show their impressive chops. “Deal With the Devil” is especially fine, with its slide guitar and midtempo shuffe, and “Mesmerized” is another good one, as Organ’s burbling keyboard adds ambience. At 14 tracks, the album could have stood to pare down a weaker song or two, but there’s no complaining about the energy on display throughout. Studebaker John is living proof that there’s plenty of life yet in those well-worn blues rock grooves.

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DAVID MAINE is a novelist and essayist. His books include The Preservationist (2004), Fallen (2005), The Book of Samson (2006), Monster, 1959 (2008) and An Age of Madness (2012). He has contributed to The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Esquire.com and NPR.com, among other outlets. He is a lifelong music obsessive whose interests range from rock to folk to hip-hop to international to blues. He currently lives in western Massachusetts, where he works in human services. Catch up with his blog, The Party Never Stops, at davidmaine.blogspot.com, or become his buddy on Facebook (or Twitter or Google+ or whatever you prefer) to keep up with reviews and other developments.


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