JD Smith and the 3 Legged Dog
JD Smith and the 3 Legged Dog

If Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers hijacked Widespread Panic’s tour bus, swung by Skynyrd’s crib to pick up some guitar licks and camped out under the stars in the Gourds’ backyard, they’d wake up sounding a lot like JD Smith and The 3 Legged Dog. The group accurately describes itself as a “workingman’s band” and Jeremy Smith’s lyrics often cast a bemoaning glance at the specifics of his own daily grind. And that doesn’t mean lyrics wasted whining about carpal tunnel syndrome—the Montana native sings about the trials of chasing down runaway horses, long periods of time working far away from home and the risks of dealing with crooked border patrol agents.

The album is well worth the gas Smith must have burned traveling between his hometown of Troy and Portland, Ore., where the record was made. Differing from Smith’s current live lineup, the recording session features saxophonist Joe Cunningham (Rubberneck, the Decemberists), members of Cross-Eyed Rosie (a Portland bluegrass staple) and a few handpicked folks from the apparently vibrant Yaak valley music scene. The guests help Smith create an authentic sound that’s true to their frontman’s blue-collar style. (Caroline Keys)

JD Smith and the Three Legged Dog play the Top Hat Friday, June 9, at 10 PM, and Tuesday, June 13, at Flanagan’s in Whitefish, at 9 PM. Covers TBA.

the hermans
stalking matilda
i like you, betty records

The next time you take the ’88 Cutlass Sierra down to the gravel bar for a bonfire party, take along the hermans’ stalking matilda, an album heavy on power chords and frenetic drum fills that’s best listened to loud, not to mention drunk. It’s just the thing to drain a keg to.

The album’s first song, “desert island,” introduces the band’s compulsively confrontational persona by ripping through a list of items offensive to the singer’s sensibilities, including some paired opposites. That song, mixed with the whimsy of “pope on strike,” which imagines a pre-pontifical pope “thinking ’bout pew-bound women,” proves good times and gut-rock riffs can carry an album.

Forays into more earnest fare, however, like the anti-trustafarian tirade “college rock,” turn the sound sour. Lines like “you’re all the same and I won’t play your game” threaten to bum out listeners whose attitude is going to have a lot to do with how much they enjoy an album that’s raw enough to irritate if picked at persnickitously.

Those inclined to crack the case without attitude, however, can expect to enjoy the aural equivalent of a cold canned beer—a swig of something to slake the thirst of the unpretentious. (Jason Wiener)

The hermans play The Raven Cafe Wednesday, June 14, at 9:30 PM. $5.

Ways To Create

Melefluent has certain jam band tendencies, but it’s clear that the band is too oddball—not to mention rock-inspired—to limit itself to just one genre. And hallelujah for that.

On Ways to Create, the Coeur d’Alene trio fuses reggae with lap steel guitar, dabbles in NOFX-style punk riffs and frequently vocalizes in a funk-rap vein similar to that of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The varied approaches keep the album interesting, but they also destroy any sense of cohesiveness. “Friends Don’t Let Friends Steal Friends Guitars” is a love song addressed to a guitar, underscoring the band’s sense of humor with lines like, “Coulda knocked you up when I was around/but we’d both be stuck in this town.” On the other hand, the barely palatable “Chinese Eyes” rehashes the wonders of smoking weed, which is a topic, unless it’s being addressed by Cypress Hill, that grows tiresome.

Ways to Create is a teetering album: burdened with too much of a funky “bowmp-chica” sound and misplaced stylings to be beyond reproach, but balanced with enough spicy tangents to deviate tantalizingly from the jamming norm. (Erika Fredrickson)

Melefluent plays the Top Hat Saturday, June 10, at 10 PM. Cover TBA. Call 728-9865.

Shooter Jennings
Electric Rodeo
Universal South

Perhaps it’s the opening yell of “yee-haw” that kicks Electric Rodeo into more-country-than-country mode, or maybe it’s the fact that Shooter Jennings holds tight to the belief that it ain’t country (as David Allen Coe once observed) if you don’t mention trains, dogs, mama or getting drunk, but every which way you cut it, this effort is an honest throwback to country’s rough and ready roots.

There’s nothing more satisfying than hearing old outlaw themes reworked into updated originals that still exhude the classical essence of “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)” and “Theme from the Dukes of Hazzard (Good Ol’ Boys),” tunes Shooter’s legendary father Waylon made famous. What sets the younger Jennings and his backup band apart from (but not above) his father are the sassier vocals, sly wit in the lyrics and the sauntering guitar riffs. “It Ain’t Easy” is a sly and subtle answer to Waylon and Willie Nelson’s “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” and “Aviators” evokes a 1970s-era powder-blue-and-rhinestone style—only with an added sense of self-aware humor.

Jennings may stand on the shoulders of giants, but Electric Rodeo is proof he knows how to revive a tradition and assemble it into new and clever arrangements. The fact that he does so without resorting to the pop-heavy theatrics that saturate the CMT-flavored music mistakenly termed “country” is what makes the effort such a success. (Erika Fredrickson)

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