Album Review: Eddie Roberts & The Lucky Strokes

Eddie Roberts can pretty much do it all. Guitarist in The New Mastersounds, he’s also a producer and label owner, applying his gifts to the work of other artists on that label. Roberts’ latest project – or one of ‘em, anyway – is The Lucky Strokes. Imagine the New Mastersounds aesthetic applied to a kind of funky Southern rock. Shades of jam bands to be sure, but the music on Eddie Roberts & the Lucky Strokes owes as much to Tedeschi Trucks Band as it does to, say, Booker T & the MGs. If your tastes run toward North Mississippi Allstars and such, you’ll find lots to like on this LP.

For the listener who wonders how Roberts’ guitar prowess wold work in a slightly different idiom, this album provides an answer. On “Sweet Dreams,” his snaky, hypnotic guitar lines corkscrew around while the vocal conjures memories of Steely Dan. With just two guitars (Roberts plus lead singer Shelby Kemp) and a taut rhythm section of bassist Ashley Galbraith and drummer Taylor Galbraith, the group makes intelligent use of its instrumental assets.

Things do take a turn toward ordinary on the relatively uninspired “Holy Fire.” It sounds and feels like a ‘70s romp, an outtake from Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple. There’s nothing wrong with this riff-fest, but it tends toward facelessness. But the group is far more credible on a reading of “Grits Ain’t Groceries.” It’s easily the most exciting track on the set, one that points out that these players are at their best when at their most soulful.

“Good Morning Lady” is a fine pastiche of The Allman Brothers, and successful on its own as well. The languid, simmering “Rambler” is a slab of southern gothic noir. “Home Sweet Home” showcases Roberts’ Memphis-inspired musical proclivities. And the set concludes with a jazzy, swinging blues of “If That’s Your Idea of Lovin’ (Move it Along).” The exuberant give-and-take is both the least original thing on the album and quite possibly the very best track. These cats can do anything they want musically, and they make it all work.