Eric Ambel

Roscoe's Gang

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    9
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In 1986, not long after the Del Lords had completed their third album, the band got word from their manager that their record company was pushing back the record's release date by six months, and the group would essentially have no work until then. Rather than get a part-time job, Eric "Roscoe" Ambel struck upon the idea of cutting a solo album, and teaming up with Lou Whitney and his band the Morells, he staged a studio version of the jams he'd been staging with various pals at New York's No Se No Club. The result was Roscoe's Gang, which later became the name of Ambel's solo band, and it's the work of a natural-born rock & roller if there's ever been such a thing. With Ambel and the Morells joined by a handful of friends and well-wishers -- including Syd Straw and Peter Holsapple, as well as jam partners Jackboy Smead and Mr. Thing -- Roscoe's Gang goes back and forth between well-chosen covers (any album that segues from Bob Dylan's "If You Gotta Go, Go Now" to Swamp Dogg's "Total Destruction to Your Mind" gets this reviewer's full and undivided attention) and like-minded originals from Ambel and his buddies (including the hard-rockin' "Don't Wanna Be Your Friend," the back-porch blues of "30 Days in the Workhouse," and "Next to the Last Waltz"'s affecting country-pop). No matter which way he and the band are headed, though, Ambel's guitar lines and vocals are tough and succinct, while he and Whitney generate a smoky barroom ambience that's comfortable with being sloppy and hard-edged without sounding stiff. Roscoe's Gang captures the sound of a group of friends having a great time rockin' out, and with friends like these, you're pretty much guaranteed a great Saturday night any day of the week you choose to play it.

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