Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Lance Lopez - Trouble Is Good

When ‘Jam With Me’ kicks in, it seems apt that Gregg Bissonette is guesting on the drum stool, because the lead single from Lance Lopez’s new album Trouble Is Good doesn’t half remind me of Dave Lee Roth’s ‘Knucklebones’, on which Bissonette did the tub-thumping.  It’s a catchy, bouncing tune with a good-time vibe that declares “A little rock’n’roll sets you free”, and underlines that sentiment with good riffing, a bundle of slide fills from Lopez, a squealing solo, and some neat variations in the backing.  All in all it’s three and a half minutes of rocking goodness.
Lance Lopez weighs the benefits of wearing shades indoors
‘Jam With Me’ may be the high point on Trouble Is Good, but there are some other goodies worth hearing too.  At one end the opener ‘Easy To Leave’ comes with a jarring riff over thumping bass’n’drums, while adopted Texan Lopez delivers his vocal with a satisfying rasp redolent of Albert Castiglia.  There’s a skating slide break too, plus a nifty revolving bridge and a punchy Lopez solo, all banged out with conviction.  And at the other end the closer ‘Voyager’ is a quite different proposition.  A seven-minute quasi-epic ostensibly in three parts, it opens in atmospheric style, combining swirling guitar and phased drum sounds, then some Blackmore-like Arabic picking over washes of keyboards.  The mid-section leans on some Page-like, discordantly jangling chords, on the way to a swooping’n’soaring conclusion, before a wistful coda, illustrating Lopez’s musical range.
Okay, so along the way from alpha to omega the quality can be a bit variable, with the off-the-leash power of ‘Take A Swing’ sounding rhythmically messy, while ‘Trying In The Tri-Star State’ is a mid-tempo paean to Nashville that’s a bit of plod.  But Lopez’s guitar playing is always there to grab your attention, with a blistering solo on the former, and some harem-scarem fretwork enlivening the latter.  And if the title track is a tad predictable, it's still well done, a sturdy thing that has balls and swing to give some younger hotshots a run for their money, embellished with some warped slide work and a squawking harp solo to add a rootsy vibe.
‘Uncivil War’ is also convincing, not exactly a ballad but a fatigued reflection on modern times, offering the bitter comment “I'm getting sick and tired of this uncivil war”, dappled with some watery Fender Rhodes piano.  ‘Slow Down’ is another nod towards Diamond Dave territory – slower and glossier, with a bright spiky riff matched to a loose, inviting rhythm, and if the chorus is a bit simplistic it’s still effective enough.  ‘Reborn’ is even better, with a bit of swing and a 60s vibe reinforcing an upbeat lyric and mood, and with some nifty guitar breaks suggesting that Lopez is having plenty fun.
The PR bumf suggests that Lance Lopez is a descendant of the Texas blues scene that fostered Stevie Ray Vaughan and ZZ Top, but those aren’t really the kind of sounds that I hear.  To my ears Lopez is more of a hard rocker, sometimes suggestive of Ted Nugent in the bright and breezy form of Weekend Warriors – though ‘Voyager’ shows that he also has other strings to his bow. Trouble Is Good makes for a pretty enjoyable 40 minutes – and it’s definitely worth getting an earful of ‘Jam With Me’.
Trouble Is Good is out now on Cleopatra Records.

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