Eric Ambel's first solo album, Roscoe's Gang, was a clear reflection of the good-time rocker's side of his personality, but while there was plenty of hard-rockin' fun in his former band, the Del Lords, they also offered a long, hard look at the realities of living in these United States at a time when the odds looked bad for folks who weren't rich or well connected. That darker side of American life was on Ambel's mind again in 1994 when he cut his second solo set, Loud and Lonesome, in which he stripped his band down to a lean, muscular power trio (with Keith Levreault on drums and Andy York on bass) and presented a set of downbeat tunes about love and life gone wrong. As its title suggests, most of Loud and Lonesome doesn't skimp on the volume, and the hard-charging "Song for the Walls" and "Way Outside" offer enough six-string fireworks to confirm that Ambel had only improved as a player since Roscoe's Gang. While song titles like "Long Gone Dream," "One More Moment Gone," and "The Rain Won't Stop" say a lot about this album's downbeat mood, the fiery performances of Ambel and his rhythm section speak of defiance, not surrender, and if circumstances aren't too happy for the characters in "I'm Not Alone" and "Downtown at Midnight," "Autumn Rose" stands as a reminder that even a tough life is not without its rewards. And while Roscoe's Gang was loaded with covers, Loud and Lonesome proved Ambel was growing significantly as a songwriter, and even though he had some top-shelf assistance from the likes of Dan Zanes, Kevin Salem, and Dan Baird, Ambel's personality shines through on every cut. A tougher and darker effort than one might expect from Ambel, Loud and Lonesome isn't always an easy listen, but it's certainly a rewarding one.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming