When it comes to the vast and crazy wilderness that is today’s underground music scene, there occasionally comes along a band or singer/songwriter that turns out to be an entirely different breed of animal than we are accustomed to. Fort Wayne, Indiana’s Left Lane Cruiser (often stylized as LLC) are just such a band, with a big sound that can floor you as sure as a full-on punch at a bare-knuckle boxing match.
Speaking of Left Lane Cruiser’s sound, it’s definitely a raw, gritty, heavy and aggressive take on traditional country and blues, venturing into down n’ dirty roots rock and hell-raising swamp-punk territory. Fredrick “Joe” Evans IV plays bottleneck slide on electric guitar with distorted amplification, while delivering hoarse, frayed wire vocals like one who puffs two packs a day and drinks a bottle of hooch for breakfast, lunch and dinner. As Evans does his thing, Brenn “Sausage Paw” Beck mans the drum kit and junk percussion, pounding his way through the songs like a wild man.
Over the years, the two-piece band formula has proved a difficult one to get right for most artists that attempt it. There have been exceptions to that rule, however, such as Two Gallants, The Black Keys, Restavrant, Uncle Scratch’s Gospel Revival, and of course Left Lane Cruiser. Each of those outfits has mastered the two-man band endeavor in their own way. And though I count myself among the fans of all four, Left Lane Cruiser has commanded more of my attention than the others lately, as I just can’t get enough of the recent re-release of their debut album “Gettin’ Down On It” from Hillgrass Bluebilly Records.
Now, Left Lane Cruiser weren’t always part of Hillgrass Bluebilly’s Dirty Foot Family. Before the re-release of “Gettin’ Down On It” they were releasing albums exclusively on Alive Naturalsound Records beside such notable labelmates as Two Gallants (before they transferred over to Saddle Creek Records, anyway), The Turpentine Brothers, Trainwreck Riders, Black Diamond Heavies, and T-Model Ford. Of course, the Hillgrass Bluebilly roster is nothing to sneeze at either, with such artists as Possessed by Paul James, Ten Foot Polecats, and Tom VandenAvond. Hopefully LLC continues to work with both labels, since they are hands down two of the best of today’s independent record circuit.
Having been molding and shaping their sound for the better part of seven years now, and with two albums under their belts on Alive Naturalsound Records – 2008’s “Bring Yo’ Ass to the Table” and 2009’s “All You Can Eat!”– their debut “Gettin’ Down On It” remains a favorite of both press and fans alike. With great songs like “Big Mamma,” “Mountain Top,” “Truck Song,” and one of my personal favorites “Pork N’ Beans,” how could it not? And now, re-released four years later, it seems to have not only renewed the appreciation of the original’s fans but also captured the interest of a whole new audience of roots music enthusiasts and record collectors.
If you like your country and blues on the greasier, raunchier side, with the mighty movement of a freight train, the muddy depths of the Mississippi River, and the heavy goodness of a six-pack of cheap beer sloshing around in your guts, Left Lane Cruiser is probably the band for you. And the re-release of their first album “Gettin’ Down On It” is no doubt the place to start.