The Del Lords released four albums that were revered by critics, veteran punk rockers and roots-rock geeks... and nobody else. These guys were New York tough, and staked their claim as leaders of a mid-80's rock renaissance that melded the punk rock spirit of 1977 with the direct, gut punch immediacies of heroes like Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash and the Flamin' Groovies.
Ripping right into the propulsive rocker, "True Love", it was clear the hallmarks of the Del Lords sound were intact - the one-two guitar punch of band architect Scott Kempner and go-to alt-country producer-host Eric Ambel (an under-rated guitarist, who only plays exactly what is needed... and not a note more), the off-kilter gang harmonies, and the lean, muscular attack that gave us current TK faves like The Bottle Rockets, Lucero and The Hold Steady. "How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live", although written in 1929, has never been more relevant, and the years just float away as the band blazes through this americana classic. It's the first of five songs from Frontier Days, their 1984 debut, and along with set closer "Heaven", elicits the most rapturous response.
There are a handful of other older songs (even "Some Summer", a recently unearthed outtake included on the recent reissue of the excellent Johnny Comes Marching Home) , a reverential take of the Flamin Groovies' "Jumpin' In The Night" and two new songs - the fatalist inertia of "When The Drugs Kick In" and the existential crisis of "This Job is Killing Me", a bluesy riff-heavy meditation on day-to-day perseverance. Kempner notes that after the Spain tour, the band will finish recording a new album. If you can't wait, there is a 5-song EP, Under Construction, that's available from the Del Lords' website.
The verdict? Hell yes it's great to have The Del Lords back! A pioneer in the roots punk genre that also gave us Jason and The Scorchers, Rank And File, The Blasters, Los Lobos, Scruffy The Cat, The Beat Farmers, E-I-E-I-O, Guadalcanal Diary, Gear Daddies, Long Ryders and Lone Justice, let's hope 2010 sees a belated celebration of some true rock and roll believers.
Set List - 2/23/10 at The Lakeside Lounge (NYC)
1. True Love
2. How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live
3. Burnin' In The Flame of Love
4. Some Summer
5. Lover's Prayer
6. When The Drugs Kick In
7. Love on Fire
8. This Job Is Killing Me
9. I'm Gonna Be Around
10. Jumpin' In The Night
11. Get Tough
12. I Play The Drums
The Del Lords - How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live
The Del Lords - Heaven