Extra Sauce

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Splitting the difference between old-school country and high-attitude rockabilly, the Riptones work up a healthy twang on Extra Sauce, their first nationally distributed album (after a pair of hard-to-find self-released sets). While at times it sounds as if the band isn't sure just how hard they want to rock, guitarist Andon T. Davis and lead singer/second axeman Jeb Bonansinga know how to make their six-strings work together as a unit, while bassist Earl Carter and drummer Tom Harmon set 'em up nicely whether in third gear or fifth. And Jeb Bonansinga's songwriting really sets this band apart; the straight-ahead honesty of his more C&W-oriented tunes ("How Mean You Really Are," " "The Meanest Man in the World") suggest he could have a solid career as a Nashville tunesmith, and even when he's singing about such perennial roots rock themes as spicy food and equally spicy women, there's a light and un-self-conscious tone to his lyrics which is welcome. (And thankfully, "Motorcycle Man" doesn't celebrate biker culture so much as it casts a bemused glance at a lawyer playing hog rider on weekends.) Not quite perfect, but Extra Sauce shows the Riptones were a strong band with good ideas they would work out on future releases.

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