Blue Chieftains ...That's All

Back in the late '80s, the Blue Chieftains were major players in the nascent NYC alt-country scene. They gigged regularly but only released a pair of singles and a few compilation cuts. There was no full-length, until now. ...That's All was recorded in May 1997, at a one-off reunion gig at Coney Island High. They played roughly 50 tracks that night and 18 of them are crammed onto this 78-minute-plus CD. They combined country, rock and blues in a rough-hewn amalgamation. Many of the originals here have appeared in remade form on main writer and guitarist Tim Carroll's solo LPs, but it's the eclectic array of covers that defines them. How many bands can take "Tequila" and make it work for nearly six minutes, interpolating the Drifter's "On Broadway" along the way? Or mix two of the most influential but commercially stagnant bands to ever come out of NYC by blasting a medley of "We're Gonna Have A Real Good Time Together/Personality Crisis?" How about closing the circle on one of rock's most legendary, yet ultimately apocryphal, urban legends with "Lynyrd Young," a melding of "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Hey Hey My My." And if none of that convinces you, have a listen to "Swingin'," yep, that dopey chocolate pie, John Anderson song. They roll it out for 11 minutes, incorporating the Beatles and Donovan by way of the Allman Brothers' "Mountain Jam." The disc is loose, goofy, fun and rocking. The sound quality is marginal, about that of a good bootleg - there's audible amp buzz, and guitar cords short out - but that just makes it all the more real. It's like CCR, the Allmans, Waylon (R.I.P.), Bad Company and the Clash all rolled into a single juke-joint roadhouse package. This is what rock and roll is all about: sweaty, greasy, sleazy, cheap and absolutely magical. Sure, there'll be more important records released this year, ones that succeed better both artistically and commercially, but I'll be shocked shitless if there's one that embodies all that is holy about rock and roll any better than this. (Real O Mind)