Chop Shop Pit Stop:
The Troublemakers are a hard working Portland based rock-a-billy, blues and roots rock band, and just so happens to include some of the best Gentlemen you’ll ever meet. They also brew up a mean dose of guitar duo duelings, along with a rhythm section that backs up one of the finest southern grown front men wielding a harp.
Rich Layton plays harmonica as smooth as silver and as fine as gold. The T-Makers call their sound harmonica-fueled, high octane roots rock. Their audiences might be attracted by references to Dave Alvin or the Blasters. They also ring a slight resemblance to Lil’ Charlie and the Nightcats style, though they sweat a lot more swamp and spitfire. Throw a little Stones, Bill Haley, Chet Atkins and Zydeco in, and we’re good to go. This release captures them well rehearsed and with new axeman, Mark “The Rev” Sexton who’s been knocking rhythmic leads outta the park for a long time. A rock’n’roll veteran looking for a band that actually stood for something has found a solid home in a solid band along with original members. Together, they work out some solid sounds on hip covers and new material.
“Cindy Lou” calls up a little of Chuck Berry style. Layton’s singing style solidly hits the note when it comes to Jerry Lee Lewis, or Elvis oriented vocals. He writes a few of the better tracks on the CD. “Great Big Fun”, is a hothouse number with that roadhouse feel. Snappy guitar leads set opposite chromatic-sounding harp lines gives it a windy expansiveness. Layton also penned “Something Borrowed, Something Blue” and invited a couple of fellow Texans to contribute to the track. Wally Shannon nails it down with rock-a-billy boogie piano, while 85-year-old! George Slanina, Sr. glides along top on pedal steel. Their nod to Nashville is reminiscent of the Grand ‘Ol Opry, and testifies to the ‘Makers respect of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys along with Chet Atkins.
Their rendition of the Otis Rush classic “Homework” stands well apart from most covers I’ve heard before. A version of The Romeo Dogs “Little Bitty Tears” calls up the long lost authentic Bakersfield sound that only greats like Buck Owens could usually command a proper ownership.
“7 Nights to Rock” return us to Bill Haley’s reign of days, and a longing to experience a time when true love was found either over a good old fashioned milk shake… or a flask at the drive-in. Try or not, Layton has a knack for duping zydeco on his harp in a way that is hard to describe. He’s not audibly that different from many harp players, but he’s got great timing and a delivery presence setting him apart from many by playing fat chords on a straight harp .
“Farmer John” is another number that this group could almost call their own. They have the ability to stamp covers with their own indelibility. Freddie King’s
“Takin’ care of Business”, and Jimmy Vaughns’ “Boom Bapa Boom”plus at least a couple others, capture that classic small room reverberant sound that Sam Philips created at Sun Records.
Chop Shop has an original vintage feel. This is evident in the live shows I’ve seen of the band. The audiences dance, whip it up, and hoot and holler. They like to do it right up next to the Rev’s tattoos that dance down his arms to his baby blue Tele, and Rich’s ruby red shit- kickers stomping out swamp-swing and jump blues like there’s no tomorrow.}
© 2011 Buko Magazine