The Howling Diablos

Car Wash

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Detroit's contribution to rock & roll has long since been its own distinct thread, holding the closest relationship to blues and soul roots more than just about anywhere else. The Howling Diablos fall full square in this lineage, both on their own and as a backing band, and on Car Wash they keep on keeping on in that vein (going so far as to collaborate on three songs with original Mitch Ryder drummer Johnny Badanjek). Sticking for the most part to quick, snarling strutters -- no grotesque Blueshammer nonsense here, thankfully; instead there's sly humor and focus -- Car Wash rides the line between older styles and more modern recording. John Smerek's engineering captures the dirt and snarl in the arrangements perfectly -- at points Mike Smith's guitar sounds like a buzzing, angry fly (keep an ear out during some of the breaks on "Prison Train"), while Shannon Boone's drums are big without being overbearing, a solid series of punches. At points the band sounds like what a combination precursor and follower of AC/DC would be like -- check out the clipped, focused riff and rhythm action on "Broke Down," but also how it isn't punched up fully in the mix, not completely overbearing. Then there's one of the Badanjek collaborations, "Stop Runnin' Your Mouth," which is a sprawling, ugly-in-the-best-way rampager, with Johnny Evans' harp cutting through the mayhem just enough. Singer Tino Gross' work producing R.L. Burnside gets a nod here via a cover of the bluesman's "Gone So Long." Some numbers are steady-as-she-goes blues-rock that's there rather than being really noticeable while the lyrics are rarely more than serviceable, but on balance there's fine stuff here that even non-aficionados should give an ear to if they're so inclined.

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