THE DEL LORDS
Elvis Club is definitely a landmark album for New York’s Del Lords because it marks its return after an absence of twenty-three years. The band might not rate more than a footnote in the history of rock ‘n’ roll but it deserves a chapter in a history of New York bands!
During the much too lengthy hiatus singer/songwriter Scott ‘Top Ten’ Kempner (once of the mighty and revered Dictators) has been releasing solo albums while guitarist Eric Ambel played in Steve Earle’s band, has also had some fine solo albums and has established a reputation for his work as a producer. (His latest is White Buffalo by Jimbo Mathus & The Tri-State Coalition). Drummer Frank Funaro has played with Camper van Beethoven, Cracker, Patti Smith, Nils Lofgren and Dion DiMucci (who co-writes a song with Kempner for this new album).
When the Del Lords emerged in the mid-‘80s during what Ambel calls the ‘roots rock scare’ they were a band caught between rock and country. Had they arrived just a few years later they might have been darlings of the alt.country scene. The band’s first album, Frontier Days (1984) contained a terrific, upbeat version of ‘How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live,’ a song that was to become their signature. The subsequent three studio albums also contained some gems but the band failed to break big.
The good news is that Elvis Club sees the Del Lords in great form, with Kempner writing some of the band’s best ever material. Ambel’s guitar playing is fiery and his production captures the band’s essence. It is almost as if they had never taken a break – certainly a case of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.
The album kicks off with the exceptionally catchy ‘When The Drugs Kick In’ and winds its way through rock ‘n’ roll, rockabilly and blues excursions. ‘Everyday’ is a Kempner/Dion co-write and sounds like Buddy Holly on steroids. There is even a stunning version of Neil Young’s ‘Southern Pacific’ thrown in for good measure.
After 30 years the Del Lords have perhaps, with Elvis Club, produced their best album together. Strange but true.