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Music Reviews

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January 7, 1998

Moonlighting

Rockie CharlesRockie Charles, Born For You (Orleans Records 1997) - Attention fans of the 60's Memphis soul sound: Born For You is the album for which you have been waiting. Featuring eleven tracks written and sung by Rockie Charles Merrick, Born For You is the stepchild of Otis Redding and Al Greene.

While Rockie now fishes for oysters off the coast of Louisiana, he held a tugboat captain's license for a quarter-century. Explains Rockie, "A tugboat is basically something like a taxi cab. We work by the hour, you see, and wherever they would send me, that's where I would go. . .Piloting tugboats is a heck of an experience, man. . . I've seen days, man, when I spent two days without even seeing no daylight, just running in fog with my head in the radar."

Rockie Charles has been making music for more than 30 years, and backed such soul legends as Little Johnny Taylor, Percy Sledge and O. B. Wright during the 60's when he was based in Nashville. Rockie's biggest success, the single "President of Soul," was issued on a New Orleans label in 1969 and enjoyed considerable regional success.

Rockie spent two years recording Born For You with producer Carlo Ditta, and the results are solid. Explains Rockie, "My style works off the blues, but it's not as confining and I don't mean that in a negative way. I've had to play a lot of different types of music because of the situation I was in, and I guess I just incorporated those styles into what I was writing . . .That means taking the blues another step further."

While those blues elements are present on songs like "I Need Your Love So Bad, I'm About to Loose My Mind," more playful numbers like "Festis Believe in Justice" (inspired by a late-night showing of "Gunsmoke") and the title track have a smooth, swinging feel, and tracks such as "Old Black Joel" have a slower, soulful sound. For a serving from an honest artist, try Born For You.

BlastersThe Blasters, American Music (High Tone Records 1980/1997) - American Music is the 1980 debut release from the Blasters, the acclaimed Downey, California band that bridged the gap between roots rock and punk rock. Previously unavailable on CD, American Music (which includes six previously unreleased tracks) is a powerful slice from this rock-solid quartet.

American Music was recorded in a Van Nuys garage on no-frills equipment that perfectly captured the excitement and raw power of the Blasters. Several tracks (such as "Marie, Marie" and the title track) became staples of the Blasters' live shows, and appeared on subsequent recordings from both the Blasters and Dave Alvin.

As singer and guitarist Dave Alvin proudly recalls, "This is a flat-out rockin' album, played by a bunch of young guys who loved the music and recorded before we got exposed to the perils of 'the music industry'." The band was rounded out by brother Phil Alvin, drummer Bill Bateman, and bassist John Bazz.

Dave recounts how he sold this project to producer and rockabilly fan "Rockin Ronny Weiser". Says Dave, "My brother Phil and I were sitting in Ronny's living room playing him our tape. Ronny dug the tape but still wouldn't make a commitment to record us. Then this truck driver came by to pick up a load of records."

"Who's this playin?" the truck driver asked. "I'll buy a copy. My wife and I dig this kind of music. You can't find music like this anymore."

Says Dave, "We couldn't have asked for more even if we had paid him a million bucks. Wherever you are, Mr. Truck Driver, thanks, man."

With their uncompromising style and ability to forge the bridge between punk and roots, the Blasters were a true American original. For a slice of the real thing, get American Music.

-- Randy Krbechek

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