The Earls of Suave

Basement Bar at the Heartbreak Hotel

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The six-piece Earls appear on the front dressed in moody finery: the lighting is low and red, there's more than one bit of Elvis memorabilia. The back shows a picture of Vegas in full neon glitter, and between all these design elements what the group itself lives by becomes perfectly clear. Recorded by Liam Watson at the legendary Toerag Studios in London, where it seems the entire trash/Vegas/rockabilly/lounge wing of the '80s and '90s, U.K. division, set up shop, Basement Bar wears its amusingly black heart on its sleeve. The Marquis de Suave (but of course) heads up the affair with his appropriately hiccuped, snarled, and crooned approach, while his compatriots amp up the echo and dankness just so, finding a spot where the Sun Studio sound crashed right into one of Sinatra's most pissed-off nights. Things aren't ramshackle -- the group consists of skilled performers, including semi-regular Gallon Drunk standby Max Decharne on some vicious piano and keyboards -- but everything sounds just trashy and on the edge enough. A fair chunk of the songs are covers, including the band's debut single, "A Cheat." Written by Lee Hazlewood, the Earls give it the swampy aura of hammy threat it needs, in spades, right down to the wailed female backing vocals. Other winning revamps include Jimmy Reed's legendary "Ain't That Lovin' You Baby," Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire," and, but of course, Elvis' "A Fool Such As I." As for the originals, the Earls can cook up some fun -- Decharne's contributions get to the heart of the matter, such as "One More Beer" and "Really Gone This Time." Guitarist Johnny Johnson turns in the hilariously titled "Mondo Moodo (Nein Danke)," while half the band goes in on the country-cliché-come-to-life "You Can Call (But I Won't Answer)." Energetic, messy fun all in all.

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