Hearing Aide: Lonesome Crow, ‘Lonesome Crow’

Central New York-based Lonesome Crow know right where the sweet spot is when it comes to Southern Rock/Outlaw Country music. Their pedigrees that include Savoy Brown, Mad Jack and Last Train Out gave them plenty of road experience, along with opening for such acts as The Outlaws, The Marshall Tucker Band and Blackberry Smoke. Composed of “compadres for decades,” Lonesome Crow is Rick Jewett (keys, harmony and  vocals), George Lamb (bass), Lou Kaplan (acoustic and electric guitars, lead and backing vocals), Slaus Brown-Paul (lead and slide guitars, banjo, harmony and vocals) and Barry Westfall (drums). Recording was done at Conan Fioramonti’s The Ghetto studio in Syracuse, produced by the band, engineered by Fioramanti, mixed by Bill Aldrich, Jewett, Brown-Paul, mastered by Scott Patnode.

Photo by Deborah Brooks Miller

This band could claim to be formed in the early to mid-1970s southern rock scene in the Carolinas and Georgia. They can honky tonk it with anyone, each member knows their role and is strong within it. Kaplan and Jewett are the primary songwriters with Brown-Paul contributing two songs as well, they even re-make a couple of Mad Jack numbers in the middle. While the terms Outlaws, Hell Raisers and Renegades are thrown around a lot these days, LC live it as much as reality allows. Much like their influences and heroes, LC’s live shows are spirited romps through decades of history while creating their own on the way.

“Rollin’ Into Town” (K), the opener of this eponymously titled album, establishes much of what “Lonesome Crow” is all about. Melodic, well-written songs that are easy on the ear and easily remembered. This could’ve come straight from a Marshall Tucker (MT) issue, much like ‘Lay Me Down’ (K/J), the next track. The story is plausible, the mix is smooth and you can dance to it. Gary Burns’ steel line with Jewett’s piano just make it bounce, the rest is solid, especially Brown-Paul’s solo. ‘American Small Town Boy” (J/K), revs it up several levels, Jewett’s piano and Hammond sound just right with Brown-Paul’s raved-up rhythm. George Lamb and Barry Westfall are great role players, with lead abilities. This music isn’t going to ask them for gymnastics, do what you do, everyone’s feet listen. Kaplan is out front and he knows how to sell what he’s got, he has the look, swagger and chops to get it.

“Wicked Ways” is the first Jewett/Kaplan (J/K) piece although they switch to Kaplan/Jewett (K/J) too, I’ll note them as they have a different flavor and the mix of them is cool. Kaplan does his best Doug Gray and the band is swinging or skiffling, is that a word even, great ooos in the background, Brown-Paul’s finger picking and slide drops. Jewett honky-tonks it and off they go, he delivers a great solo mid-song too. “Pick-Up Truck” (J), is where Jewett takes the mic and kicks it into gear, his organ sounds are dead-on and Brown-Paul’s pick and slide jump like Toy Caldwell, the bluesy backing shouts and the same in Jewett’s voice compliment nicely. Brown-Paul shines again in solo, did I say the rhythm section was tight? That.

Photo by Kasey Bec

“Shot To Hell” (K/J), brings a bit of Allman Brothers Band here with the acoustic rhythm brought up, the slide and the piano. The MT is still present as Kaplan re-takes the lead and the harmonies really come through with the help of Fioramanti in the equation, a percussion shake too. Brown-Paul’s (B-P) first piece, “You’re The One” is also his first lead singing role, his voice is softer and smoother, it is just right for this true sad country tune. Gary Burns’ lilting steel guitar licks behind the tremble of B-P’s vocal, Jewett gets a little country majestic and you could wring the sweet out of the backing vocals. “Tonight We Ride” TWR is a (K/J) plus Alan Macomber and Mike Brown piece from their former band, Mad Jack, as is the next one, ‘Desperation Road’ DR. ‘TWR’ is a nice up-tempo love song, more country flavored with a updated guitar solo and a Allman Brothers bridge. It’s got the right swing and sway, DR has it too while of course the topic matter is 180 degree spin. DR opens in a dark mood, Westfall paces with a marching snare, but quickly turns its cheek, Brown-Paul leads to Jewett mid-song as they stretch it out with a couple of great solos. Lamb is running steady on the bottom as Kaplan tells the tale of redemption from his soul and heart. Cool outro too.

“Way Past Mad” (B-P), with B-P at the lead, is tweaked with Texas-Blues and a similar swing. It feels like you’re riding a railroad car, then Jewett jumps on piano line right out of a western barroom. All of the elements that culminate in Texas Swing with a big-rock ending. Great jam. “Fast And Free” (K/J) rocks a bit more than previously heard here, Jewett stealing the show in the middle with a ripping piano solo, only to have B-P top it off. When Kaplan sings, “Packin’ up this old guitar, Packin’ up my guns, Loadin’ down that truck out in the drive, Say goodbye and wish you well, Put the hammer down, Takin’ one last run while I’m alive”, you know he’s been there before. Then B-P drives it home.

“Take My Drunk Ass Home” (J/K) closes with a bluesy country twang, Jewett at the mic, it’s a descriptive, with the title’s protagonist talking to himself. It’s possible he’ll get everything he’s lost back, but we know what he’ll have to do. LC’s dexterity within a loose genre is expressed throughout this album. They tell you stories, whether they’re reality or fiction, they’re plausible, they’re presented authentically and played at the level that is allowed by most prefectures. They love what they do and it shows clearly what the idea of being in a band is all about. If’n all y’all maight prefer this heya musical style, might right give a listen, all y’all be durn happy fo it! Check them out on facebook.

Key Tracks: “Pick Up Truck”, “Way Past Mad”, “Fast And Free”