The Compulsive Gamblers

Live & Deadly: Memphis-Chicago

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The liner notes to Live & Deadly describe the Compulsive Gamblers as "the 1990s' most unusual Memphis bar band" (their clumsy grammar, not mine) and compared to the crude and gritty sounds of their earliest work, this set (recorded during two May 2002 gigs that briefly preceded the band's demise) captures the Gamblers sounding like a bar band in all the best senses of the phrase. These performances find Greg Cartwright and Jack Yarber (fronting a loose but emphatic band, complete with organ, pedal steel, and trumpet) in strong and soulful form, wearing their love for classic R&B and C&W sounds on their sleeves, and in a better world every corner bar would have a band this powerful offering up suitable background music for dancing and drinking. If the slop factor is a tad higher here than you might hear from, say, the average act on Alligator, the strength of the songwriting (both in Cartwright and Yarber's originals and the stack of well-chosen covers) makes it clear these guys are dead serious about the kind of music that made their hometown of Memphis great (add a little polish and "Don't Come Looking for Me Now" could be a country hit). While the closing tracks offer up just the sort of frantic abandon you'd expect, for the most part Live & Deadly: Memphis-Chicago records the Compulsive Gamblers following the straight and narrow closer than you'd expect, but without losing a bit of their sweat and intensity in the process. Cool stuff.

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