Keith Richards famously said that “the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world is determined on a nightly basis.” For many a night in the ‘80s, Charlie Pickett and his various backing bands took the title hands down. “These guys were one of the undiscovered giants of the late ‘80s,” says R.E.M.‘s Peter Buck. The South Floridian’s country, punk, and blues sound became what every bar-goer wants to hear: greasy, drunken rock with a punk delivery, streaming unhindered personal confessions, and more raucousness than the depth of that pitcher of beer. And if someone can inject all of the above with various literary allusions for the highbrow bar patrons, Charlie Pickett can and will.
Pickett fronted Charlie Pickett and the Eggs (who were later Charlie Pickett & the MC3), playing guitar and slide guitar with the fury of George Thorogood and the swagger of Ray Davies. Pickett threw together motorcycle rock and roll, punk thrashing, and country roots into a signature sound. The roster of musicians may have varied, but Pickett’s unruliness remained. Lead guitarist Johnny Salton shredded some dangerous riffs and rocked out some improvisational hair metal solos. “Get Off on Your Porch” not only displays Salton’s speed and virtuosity, it also involves some of quintessential rock themes. Pickett, who takes backseat to Dave Froshnider’s lead vocals, shouts dissonant harmonies against Froshnider’s rumpled, panicked, and desperate manner of punk singing and shouting. “Well I took some of these / I took some of those / I’ve got dope in my hand / I’ve got coke in my nose”, yowls Froshnider against the increasingly strung-out guitars. Drugs and rock and roll go hand in hand, as singing about the illegal activities only embellishes their taboo nature. The song also has sexual undertones as the title and refrain could possibly allude to masturbation. Drugs, sex, and rock and roll in their eternal bonds.
Sometimes multi-part harmonies are off, sometimes Pickett wanders past or doesn’t quite make it to the right pitch, and sometimes the songs feel like last minute throw-togethers. Some might argue that this adds to the drunken sound, that Pickett comes filtered through at least a half of whiskey bottle. Others might add that the punk-ish DIY sound comes across best when taken as is. While there are several live tracks, the studio tracks retain that same first-take quality. Either explanation might hover around the best argument, but the best way of putting it is this: Part of rock and roll is the grit, the imperfection, and going against what sounds right. Another part of rock and roll is a musician’s allowing the music to just happen, to be in the moment. Marrying those two parts of rock and roll make records like this work.
Rockabilly number “Cowboy No 77” begins with a sped-up gospel walking bass-line (Eric Hohn) and continues with buzzing and jangling guitars. Texas blues rocker “America on Horseback” has a cowboy perspective with ZZ Top guitar solos and Pickett’s mastering of feedback manipulation. Alt-country tambourines and dirty, distorted guitar on initial track “All Love All Gone” sound like they directly influenced Cracker’s sound. Live track “Shake Some Action”, a cover of the Flamin’ Groovies’ epic punk anthem, completes the album with thrashing drums (Johnny “Sticks” Galway) and ringing guitar. Despite the different emphasized genres, the songs that make up Bar Band Americanus definitely hold a booze-brined, rock and roll quality that very few can achieve.
- Multiple songs MySpace