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Thursday, August 04, 2011

Album Review: Grifter - s/t

Grifter - s/t
2011 Ripple Music
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

I'm automatically going to hand a band that pounds Guinness a gimme point. Guinness drinkers (at least in the United States) run a gauntlet of shriveled-up faces and irksome groans and moans from tamed-down lager lovers--you know who you are, fukkos. Guinness, not for everyone.

Grifter hails from Plymouth in the UK. Obviously not the punk outfit of the same name, nor Grifters, which had their run in the early nineties, this Grifter is more about skillet rawk in the vein of Clutch, Scissorfight and the drop-kicked Southern boogie metal vibe that's been more than fashionable in the American underground these days. Let's add Ripple Music's own Stone Axe, while we're being topical here. Better yet, this Grifter loves Guinness. In other words, these dudes are no pussies.

As Bad Company and Foghat learned ages ago, there's heaps of power to be cultivated by studying American delta blues and the manuals of Skynard and Allman. Two of the mightiest UK heavy rock acts who could (and do, if you gauge the average classic rock listener) pass off as American, Bad Company and Foghat are anamolies. In their own fashion, Grifter could likewise pass off as an American piss rock band. Their low-key, though booming cadence carries the subliminal wafts of diesel, garbage, used condoms and spilled booze--in this case, Guinness. All of that is being complimentary.

Consider songs such as "Asshole Parade," "Strip Club," "Piss and Gas," "Bucktooth Woman" and "Good Day For Bad News." It's not just the titles of these grimy cuts; it's the attitude backing them up. You really do flop into this album thinking another Neil Fallon side project (i.e. The Company Band) has cropped up. Guitarist/vocalist Ollie Stygall nails Fallon's sweltering pipes to a tee all over this album. If "Young Blood, Old Veins" isn't a quantified Clutch outtake, then there's seldom few songs deserving of the honor.

The longer Grifter grinds on, the more you feel there's a Jam Room 2 Clutch never bothered to release. However, instead of trying to match Tim Sult and Dan Maines by the decibel, Grifter opts for a driftier slide and keeps it all on the low end. Stripped down, absolutely, and it's why "Bucktooth Woman" shakes a rowdy tail feather as much as you're forced to laugh at Grifter's huckleberry muse.

"Preacher and the Devil" carries a well-familiar note spiral you've heard from Sabbath to Deep Purple to ZZ Top to Jane's Addiction, but Grifter ends up throwing in a bit of their own jam into the mix with a yowling though easyriding solo from Stygall and a bare bones bass line that carries into the last chugging verse and chorus. Also, have fun with the bottleneck swerves and "aroooo" choruses on the album's swampy closer, "Gone Blues."

"Alabama Hotpocket, "Bean," "Welcome Guest" and "Asshole Parade" are all crock pot ditties that are more than welcome in today's edition of the fuzz rawk cookbook. Cool to see some of the servers hail from parts outside of Baton Rouge, Savannah and Charleston. A point to Grifter for the Guinness. Three more for delivering a chunky through settled slab of amp restraint that nevertheless rocks hard.

Like Guinness, not for everyone. We don't want those people around, anyway.

Rating: ****

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