The LeRoi Brothers

Kings of the Catnap

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Great, even legendary, bar bands don't necessarily make great, legendary records (see NRBQ), but in Austin's Leroi Brothers' case, they don't make many records at all. This disc comes a whopping eight years after 1992's Crown Royale, which itself was a cobbled-together collection of two European releases. With all that time to prepare, you'd think this would be a spectacular, no holds barred, career-defining work. It's not. Kings of the Catnap, so titled after sleeping habits brought about through a life of hard touring, is a relatively lively, upbeat, but hardly revelatory traipse through the various roots genres the Leroi Brothers call home. Honky tonk, rockabilly, swamp rock, a bit of blues, folk, and country all get filtered through the band's workmanlike rockin' machine to adequate effect. It's all solid, unpretentious, and honest, but nothing jumps out and grabs the listener with the insistent, biting Americana groove the band is known for live. It's not for lack of trying. Guest musicians like the Band's Garth Hudson, Austin vocalist Toni Price, guitarist Jimmy Vaughn, and even Buck Owens (a longtime fan) add their distinctive presence to various tracks and do their best to pump up run-of-the-mill material with their undeniable talents. The always idiosyncratic Hudson, in particular, transforms the ordinary ballad "Someday" into a majestic, Band-worthy track. But the original songs by group founder/guitarist Steve Doerr and guitarist Casper Rawls are too often derivative, uninspired, and lack great hooks or melodies. Vocalist Doerr doesn't exude a powerful or unique enough presence to compensate and the band's self-production fails to capture the sparks that make them such an incendiary live act. Song's like "Devil Shake Woman" with its note-for-note Hubert Sumlin lick and "Runnin' Ghost," which sports a slinky Hendrix groove, don't resonate with the intensity of their inspirations. Unfailingly rugged, heartfelt, and sincere, Kings of the Catnap still falls short of effectively capturing the energy of a great, even legendary bar band.

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