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It’s rare to hear a good old-fashioned rock guitar album nowadays. Shame that a mediocre old-fashioned rock guitar album isn’t much consolation. This one is more of the faded and feeble variety than vintage and venerable.

I also can’t fathom why most of the groups here either have distinct Southern roots. Isn’t the film set in Vermont? I guess nothing says “Highway Patrol” quite like a countrified, southern-style, deep-fried guitar riff.

With the exception of one piece of techno nonsense from some artist called Bubbles – which evaporates before it gets warm – every track here is straight from the barroom. Whether swaying to the side of laid back blues or crunching rock, these are the sort of sounds that can only be fashioned by a posse of heavy-handed plectrum wielders gathered around drum kit and cranked amplifiers.

It’s the Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top attitude without the chops. And I’m not talking ZZ sideburns. Trooper With An Attitude is the opening cut from 38 Special, and somehow you get the feeling these jokers forgot to load their pistols. Attitude is a good start but it won’t substitute for a killer chorus.

Attitude is also not lacking in the two tracks provided by The Unband. These are the disc’s only nod to modernity, and sad evidence that combining neo grunge with trad rock is not enough to extricate it from the morass of grunge itself if it doesn’t have a decent song to hang onto.

The charmingly named Nashville Pussy also make a double contribution to the slew of crude rock. The first of these is called Shoot First And Run Like Hell, fine advice when you commit the crime of nicking the opening riff of Queen’s Tie Your Mother Down and fail to do anything useful with it. At least Freddie Mercury had his tongue firmly stuck in his cheek (one of the more polite places it found itself no doubt).

A measure of relief can be found around the centre of soundtrack with the mellower country blues of Southern Culture On The Skids and the Jack Grace Band. Right in the middle is The Royal Fingerbowl’s Bad Apples, perhaps the lightest track of all, yet the only one with real bite. A swinging rockabilly number with a tang of soul and a sweetly irreverent fragrance this is the sort of Bad Apple I can really get my teeth into.

Somewhere between the glamorous as granite aggressiveness and the lighter ditties, are middling blues-by-numbers numbers such as The Corn Rocket, which seems like it was produced to sound like a demo recorded in Elvis’s backyard tin shed, and a paean of loyalty to a man’s first true love titled Second To The Bottle.

I think I might have figured out why these sounds are from the South. This is an album to appeal to big men with big beards, bigger tattoos and even bigger testosterone, driving equally big trucks all the way from Maine to Florida via a detour to Texas. Still I’m not sure that even they would be overly impressed. Too many of these tracks slide into the crevice of banality that lies between extremes. Not classy enough to contribute anything worthwhile to the blues-rock chronicles, nor wild or flash enough to personify the electricity in the amplifiers. Trooper, arrest that guitarist! He’s soloing too slow.

Published March 21, 2002

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TITLE: Super Troopers
ID: TVT6870-2
ARTISTS: 38 Special; The Unband; Nashville Pussy; Southern Culture On The Skids; Steak; Jack Grace Band; Royal Fingerbowl; Bubbles;

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