As much as I prefer music that bears the stamp of the town that birthed it, there's something to be said for a band that becomes so obsessed with another region's music that it transforms itself to the point that it plays the music perfectly. The Love Me Nots, regarded as one of Phoenix's best bands, are a great example: The '60s-styled retro outfit wears silver go-go boots and skinny ties so well that its record, Detroit, sounds as if emerged from the Motor City's celebrated garage-rock scene.
By that standard, Hogjaw's Devil in the Details is a huge success. If you didn't know any better, you'd swear you were listening to gen-u-ine Southern swamp rock. Pretty good swamp rock, actually. Devil is full of Tabasco-flavored licks and vivid libretto set to a steady churn of greasy bass lines and endearingly efficient drumming. From the cover of their record (a steer's skull, half of it painted to look like an Arizona flag and half a Confederate flag) to their MySpace page (pictures of them hunting, fishing, and shooting stuff, while wearing bushy beards and camo hats), the band has the image mastered.
Singer Jonboat Jones has a gruff drawl, cultivated by living in the "swampy woods of south Georgia, the gravel pits of west Tennessee," and Arizona. The band's press materials say he was "raised on dry-rub BBQ, bream on the cainpole, and Skynyrd band on the radio." Nothin' wrong with that. Mostly, he sings about the tried and true topics of trucker music: driving trucks, driving El Caminos, and defending the right to keep and bear arms.
You Asked for It is a weekly review of a local CD on our music blog, Up on the Sun: blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/uponsun/you_asked_for_it.
I imagine the lyrics would make some cringe. "Damn old woman sold that truck to some landscape Mexicans," sings Jones. "Didn't come this far to be outdone and I gave her a piece of my mind, Until that policeman would say 'Let's take a little ride.'"
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Offensive? Certainly a little. But subtle racism and domestic violence are have been making swamp rock authentic since the days of Skynyrd. If Hogjaw were lesser purveyors of the craft, it'd be exponentially more offensive, but I take it as a loyally hewn tribute to the music of the South.