In a town where rock bands tend to sound raw and muscular, Boston's Scruffy the Cat were an engaging anomaly, a group whose music was a tuneful mix of pop and rootsy rock & roll, with just a dash of country and folk-rock; the banjo and steel guitar gave the tunes a rural flavor, though the electric guitars and keyboards were strictly from the big city. Scruffy the Cat made a handful of fine records and toured hard without ever quite catching the brass ring, but despite that, they wrote songs that stuck with people, and a couple decades after they broke up (and a year after the death of Scruffy leader Charlie Chesterman), the band is finally getting some well-deserved respect on CD. While Sony is digitally releasing Scruffy the Cat's complete Relativity Records catalog in the collection Time Never Forgets: The Anthology ('86-'88), Omnivore Recordings has brought out a companion volume, The Good Goodbye: Unreleased Recordings 1984-1990, which brings together 78 minutes of early demos, radio broadcasts, live-in-the-studio material, and their unheard final sessions cut in Memphis in 1989. (Actually, one tune from the Memphis recordings was previously released on a split single with the Young Fresh Fellows, but you're forgiven if you have trouble tracking it down.) While Scruffy the Cat were often cheerfully scrappy on their albums, eagerly kicking up some dust in the studio, most of the tracks on The Good Goodbye focus on the group's acoustic side, through even with the volume turned down, tunes like "Shadow Boy" and "Big Fat Monkey's Hat" boast energy and spirit. And a strong shot of R&B slips into the mix on the final six tracks, recorded in Memphis at Ardent Studios and including soul horns on a few tunes as well as a tighter, leaner sound that rocks with real fire and fervor. And throughout this set, the band's heartfelt and often witty regular-guy songwriting makes a strong impression, sharing a rumpled and honest perspective on love and life that most folks will easily recognize. The Time Never Forgets collection is the essential collection for both longtime fans and those looking into their work for the first time, but for the hardcore Scruffy the Cat fan, The Good Goodbye is a marvelous look into the band's lost archives, and the Memphis tracks suggest they had at least one more great album left in them if they'd gotten the record deal they needed at the time.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming