Album review: MODERN EARL – Hot Damn!

Modern Earl - Hot Damn!

Modern Earl/Christopher Hudson [Release date 23.01.14]

While the terms ‘kick ass’ and ‘southern country rock’ aren’t necessarily antithetical, they fail to fuse or spark on Modern Earl’s ‘Hot Damn!’

I’m sure this German exiled American southern country rock band do the business on the live circuit, but their recycled hash is distant reflection of mid 70’s cutting edge southern rock and moreover is a poor return for a band that describe itself as ‘unique’.

Sure they mine the staple red neck themes of women, drinking and the good old south, but they fail to do the one thing that could rescue them which is to rock.

The title track can’t make up its mind whether to stick or twist with rock or country and vainly hopes the amalgam of decent 3-part harmonies and a stop-time hook will solve all.

‘Rules of the Bar’ is simply tame, and only some fine dobro playing from Christopher Earl Hudson or Ethan Shaffner (they both are credited on dobro), rescues the derivatively titled ‘Hell Or High Water’, while the vacuous ‘Catfish And Titties’ is barely better than its dumb title suggests.

But hey, you’ve paid your money and you’re entitled to a slice of the south, and they fleetingly deliver on the rock-a-boogie of ‘Backwoods Betty’, on which a distant harp is mixed so far back it sounds like different session next door, as a slide break tries to induce some much needed spark.

‘Whiskey On The Table’ (‘it ain’t gonna drink itself’), at least benefits from Ethan Shaffner’s Outlaws style guitar flourish, while ‘That Girl Can Drink’ is the closest they get to a riff-driven piece on a song with a big harmony hook.

‘Hot Damn!’ is frankly underwhelming retro, redneck fare that doesn’t even benefit from an end of the album pay off , though the band do up the tempo on the southern rocking, moonshine referenced ‘Hillbilly Band’. They finish with a nostalgic a cappella ‘Dixie’, the lyrics of which are sharply at odds with their European exile reality.

‘Hot Damn!’ falls flat between its southern rock pretensions and good old boy nostalgia. It’s the sort of stuff that might go down well in a German beer hall, but totally lacks both impact and integrity in the unforgiving confines of a recording studio. **

Review by Pete Feenstra

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Power Plays w/c 19 August (Mon-Fri)

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PHIL LANZON Blue Mountain (Phil Lanzon Ditties/Cargo Records UK)

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