With a knack for Southern rock melodies and smart songwriting, Used Rugs showed promise on this 1996 debut. The core of the Los Angeles quartet consists of Minnesota transplants Jimi Laipple (vocals) and Robyn Krystal (drums), who are joined by Jose Mary (guitars) and Toby Wilson (bass.) After spending a couple years pounding the L.A. club scene, the group self-released The Welcome Mat on their own Cool Bean label. Alternately stark ("Sad Man"), bluesy ("The Dawg"), and generally rockin', Used Rugs covers a broad stretch of musical ground. Laipple's accomplished vocals and songwriting serve as an anchor for his bandmates' acoustically grounded classic rock. Except for the metallic (and somewhat out of place) closing track, Used Rugs glides through a collection of songs somewhere between jam rock and '90s Southern alternative as practiced by the likes of Cry of Love and Brother Cane. Laipple shies away from his traditional bluesy inflections on occasion, opting instead for a more modern rock feel that still blends nicely with the down-home riffing. "Kin Blues" is easily the best track on this disc, combining memorable melodies and slick songcraft. While The Welcome Mat might not have received much attention, it is a strong testimony to Laipple's many abilities.
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