Eddie Roberts & The Lucky Strokes
Guitarist Eddie Roberts steps away from his The New Mastersounds and other jazz-funk related projects that typically appear on the label Color Red, to step into southern rock with a new group of musicians who are debuting on the label. Dubbed The Lucky Strokes, the band features Mississippi-based vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter Shelby Kemp (Royal Horses) and the Florida-based sisters Ashely Galbraith on bass and Taylor Galbraith on drums, with an appearance from Keyboardist Chris Spies who often joins them on live gigs.
The band name may appear to be somewhat generic but there is/was actual serendipity at play here on a couple of fronts. Spies, a close friend of Roberts, brought Kemp to Color Red to record for psych-country-rock project Royal Horses. Roberts was impressed by the session and especially by Kemp’s take on Little Milton’s “Grits Ain’t Groceries.” The next connection was purely by chance as Roberts heard drummer Galbraith who was in the lineup at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday where he was also performing. In a fortuitous “two-for-one” he later learned that Taylor’s sister was an accomplished bassist.
While the above would suggest that luck had already struck three times, there’s more. Roberts and Kemp were performing at a New Year’s Eve show in Alabama when a gang-related shooting outside the club resulted in a piece of shrapnel glancing off Roberts’ finger, subsequently landing in Kemp’s amp. We could elaborate but suffice it to say, the two escaped unharmed and formed a rather “as luck would have it” bond. A few weeks later Roberts flew the sisters to Denver to perform together with him and Kemp in a live show that was so well received that it led to this studio recording.
This straightforward, oft in-your-face music with plenty of reference points reveals the soulful vocals of Kemp, and moves Roberts away from cleaner guitar lines to more distorted rock while still maintaining his funky edge and signature soul driven boogaloo style. The sisters are an impressive tandem too while the songs themselves are mostly bluesy southern rock fare written by Kemp or co-written by Kemp and Roberts. These tracks sizzle with uncompromising energy as typified by the hard driving opening single “Whiskey Makes Me Stronger,” a warning to seek self help through less destructive means. “Sweet Dreams” has a vocal three-part harmony over a funky bed but the song itself reads a bit like a work in progress with Ashely’s bass line its redeeming feature. “Holy Fire,” though shows the band at its best with its unrelenting thumping rhythm, raging guitars and Kemp’s powerhouse vocal chops, evoking the late Steve Marriot of Small Faces and Humble Pie. Much the same is true for the familiar “Grits Ain’t Groceries.”
“Good Morning Lady” is a respite from the fierce tempos, as the band settles into a soulful ballad, delivered passionately by Kemp. “Everything I Do and Say” is a sweaty, funky workout while the standout “Rambler” features a haunting vocal over a tremolo drenched swampy vibe, faintly reminiscent of early CCR – “Rambler, rambler why don’t you just stay gone.” The band returns to its funky swagger with “Home Sweet Home” which will inevitably call to mind Lynyrd Skynyrd’s song of a similar name, replete with raging guitars and sturdy bass work from Ashely. “If That’s Your Idea of Lovin’” is grounded in solid blues riffs and stinging licks. The last two are live tracks that include Chris Spies on keyboards – the previous “Whiskey Makes Me Stronger” and “Holy Fire” which have already stamped themselves as audience favorites in live shows. Roberts takes those words literally in the latter, with his pyrotechnic guitar excursion.
This band takes no prisoners and burns up the stage (and maybe your speakers too). It’s a LOUD record.
- Jim Hynes
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