Album Review: The Del-Lords – Elvis Club

Sometimes, when you hear a band’s music, you get a sense of their worldview within the first few seconds. There’s the sort of artist whose work makes it clear that they live and breathe rock’n’roll. They may or may not walk around believing (or saying) that rock’n’roll will save your soul (or the world), but their music nonetheless seems to telegraph that viewpoint.

And so it is on the triumphant return Elvis Club, the first studio album from New York City’s Del-Lords. Part of a proud tradition of no-bullshit music that makes no pretensions, that feels real because it is real, The Del-Lords hit the mid-80s scene with a handful of well-regarded albums, but the group went inactive after 1990’s Lovers Who Wander. Twenty years later, three of the original members – Eric “Roscoe” Ambel, Frank Funaro and Scott Kempner – added bassist Michael DuClos and released some demos as the EP Under Construction and began to play live dates again. The full-length Elvis Club picks up right where the 80s band left off, melding meat’n’potatoes rock to blues (the delightfully titled “Chicks, Man!”), windswept Americana (“Flying,” which actually sounds a bit like Gin Blossoms at their very best) and other related styles into a seamless whole.

Even at their most contemplative (the gentle “All of My Life”), The Del-Lords have a gritty undercurrent that renders an Allman Brothers-style melody into something decidedly more urban. “Me and the Lord Blues” isn’t in fact a blues, but it’s a swaggering, rocking tune where riffage meets melody to create a memorable tune. The sweet spot where classic country connects with rock is explored on the delightful singalong “Damaged.” Kempner – who takes the lion’s share of Elvis Club‘s lead vocal duties – co-wrote “Everyday” with Dion DiMucci.

And when The Del-Lords do take on a blues (“You Can Make a Mistake One Time”), they shoot it through with a slowed-down heaviness that recalls Black Sabbath as much as, say, Johnny Winter (without sounding like either).

The jangling “Silverlake” ranks among the album’s finest moments, but the album’s musical quality is so consistently high that choosing a best track is pointless. Elvis Club‘s sole non-original finds the band reaching deep into the Neil Young catalog to cover “Southern Pacific” from 1981’s outing with Crazy Horse, Re-ac-tor. The ringing guitar chords and Funaro’s chugging drums provide an aural landscape that conjures images of the song’s titular trains; one almost expects a chant of “yippie yi yay” in this vaguely Outlaws-ish reading of the tune.

At press time, only a handful of live Del-Lords dates had been announced, and all of those are in the NYC region. Here’s hoping for a tour; the high-powered yet organic songs on Elvis Club seem designed for live performance.

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