The Blue Hawaiians

Live at the Lava Lounge

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Live at the Lava Lounge is a modest fireball of hipster cover tunes performed by the swingers of the surf torch, the Blue Hawaiians. Earning points for authenticity, the quartet members pay tribute to the likes of Jerry Cole and Lee Hazlewood, but they'll frequently pepper things up with wild cards like the jazz staple "Caravan," Lionel Hampton's "Red Top," and even a pulped-up version of "Jockey Full of Bourbon" by Tom Waits. Dreamy slide guitar shorelines segue to inner-city Thunderbirds in the endless pursuit of cool. Mark Fontana's crooning on a couple of these tracks (notably "A Cheat") throws a sort of David Lynch haze over the ears. Initially, this style of music seldom lends itself to any performances of wild abandon, but the musicians all take turns sneaking a little extra heat onto the stage over the course of the hour, until the band is so warmed up that the chairs have started to melt. The call and response of "Jet Black" clicks out an edgy switchblade tango, and "Jack the Ripper" is a cross between a gang rumble on the pier and Gidget with a whip. Any hints at crime noir along the way finally get their cover blown by the explosive "Dick Tracy" theme, a fall over backwards finale to a show that has steadily grown in energy and aggression. For a live set it's a great recording, and there's no denying the solid musicianship and energy. Equally important is that everyone -- on-stage and off -- was having a good time.

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