SoundCheck: When the Heavy Breaks

You can hear hints of delicious mid-'60s blues-pop in Mambo Sons' music, with obvious influential injections from The Kinks and the Rolling Stones, Elton John and others, but it's also obvious that the band was awake during the '70s and '80s. Its foundation acoustic rhythm tracks invoke Boston and ELO, and its recently-released album Heavy Days has got a few real gems on it.

"Love is Strange" is a gorgeous, simple, vocals-follow-the-acoustic-guitar-melody ditty, and the following tune, "Single City" almost eerily reproduces some of Joe Walsh's finer guitar work (courtesy of guitarist Tom Guerra). "All Men Are Pigs" is a snarky, mock-rock take on Bob Dylan. There's a cover of Jimi Hendrix' "Stone Free," and the title track, "Heavy Days," bears a dedication to recently deceased and much missed Easthampton luthier Frank Lucchesi.

Most of the songs are heavier rockers that feature the skills of singer Scott Lawson's Rod Stewart/Billy Squier-esque bluesy but modern-rock-ready vocal timbre, honed in his other project, cover band Orange Crush. It may not be quite as back-woods-meets-urban-downtown as, for example, Jack White's, but I think that's because Lawson has likely absorbed not only this type of material but also scads of Brit pop, New Wave, So-Cal ska and mushy singer/songwriter stuff as well. The lyrics and rhymes/cadences aren't brilliant, but they're honest enough, and spot on at least 50 percent of the time.

It's bands like these who, were they a tad younger, might evolve into a Staind or a Stone Temple Pilots. Solid drums are provided on the disc by Joe Lemieux, and a few tracks feature Matt Zeiner's truly fluid keyboard skills on piano, Wurlitzer and Hammond organ. Though these guys are primarily a Connecticut band, they've always had at least one foot here in Western Mass., and seem to have at least a part-time obsession with charitable causes, so give 'em a listen.

Heavy Days is available on Omnicide Records and can be found through

Author: Tom Sturm

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