Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Jack Mack & The Last Stand/Jet W. Lee/Rob Reid

Note: These reviews originally appeared in the Around Hears column in the Illinois Entertainer.

Jake Mack & The Last Stand’s debut release, The Heavy Chevy EP, gives its charismatic frontman plenty of room to showcase his guitar playing. He also impresses as a vocalist; ranging from the blues rock bravado of “Crooked Smile” to a sensual, Prince-like delivery on the funky “Always In My Head.” The title track offers hard rock fun, and “Nobody Understands” has an extended coda reminiscent of Robin Trower’s “Too Rolling Stoned.” 

Singer-guitarist Jesse W. Johnson’s brash and talkative vocal style sounds a bit forced during the few slow tracks on Jet W. Lee’s latest release, Western Nightmare. Fortunately, everything else is highly energetic, which is where Johnson is at his best. “The King’s Nightmare” would fit in well on a Cracker album, while “Hate To Hold Hands” has an appealing Americana arrangement. Other tracks, like “World Of Blur” and “Gas On The Grave,” are brief, but make a strong impression.  

There’s a clever juxtaposition in the title of Rob Reid’s Prairie Shanties Of The Landlocked Mariner, but many of his songs do have the feel of traditional folk music. “Some Birds” uses the winged creatures as a metaphor for humans, with lines like, “Some birds never seem to mind life inside a cage.” Julie Jurgens and Steve Dawson join Reid on harmonies for a few tracks, including “Me And Johnny Mac,” which evokes Paul Simon with its infectious rhythms.


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