Cheap Gunslingers introduce themselves as a band quite nicely on their debut album which prefers to ignore the past 40 years and channel a blend of glam, the Ramones, and ’77 punk to great effect. Many, many years ago, Jeff Dahl put out a series of compilations call the ‘Ultra Underground’ that would have served as a perfect place to find the Cheap Gunslingers. I did a quick review of Sal Canzonieri’s new ‘A Fistful More of Rock and Roll’ series as that would be another great place for these Gunslingers to be but did not see them listed on any of the upcoming volumes yet. Their songs are filled with trashy, fuzzy, addictive, familiar hooks that musically do not offer a lot of surprises, but the album is downright fun.
‘Record Store’ gets the party started with a beat and structure that reminds me of Joan Jett’s version of ‘Roadrunner,’ but the production is much more aligned with the early Ramones’ albums. The Chuck Berry infused guitars riffs cut with a nice touch of distortion added for some extra crunch. The chorus is simple and leads to some badly out of tune backup singing by me as I write this. It really serves as an ideal lead track for the album as it immediately pulls the listener in and leaves you wanting to know what they will do next. They maintain the momentum with ‘Good Time’ delivering just what the title says. Some tasteful ‘oohs’ in the background of the chorus provide another reason that this one sticks in the brain. ‘Defective’ serves up some straight ahead rock n roll but doesn’t hit the same heights with me that most of the other songs here do. ‘Three Chords’ comes in with the rhythm section laying down the beat, and the guitar solo serves up some well placed distortion. The hook is not fancy but works well and is designed for crowd participation. The first half of the album comes quickly to a close with ‘Run Girl’ bringing back the ‘oooh’s’ for backing vocals before the chorus gets stuck in your brain like gum on your shoe. The break in the back half of the song really helps provide some dynamics to the song to take it to the next level.
‘Junky Friends’ was the first song I heard by the Cheap Gunslingers when I was seeing if I wanted to review the album, and it initially left me flat. It was enough to tell that the band were in my musical wheelhouse (or at least one of them), and I was curious enough to want to hear the whole album. With all that said, this song has continued to grow on me, and I really like it within the concept of the album. The opening riff and beat reminding me more of someone like the Heartbreakers with a similar production quality. It packs a little more punch than some of the other songs here. I have no doubt that I would prefer to hear this song live. ‘Please Kill Me’ brings a cool blues groove and one of the best choruses on the album. If the band make another video for the album, this would be my recommendation with the guitar riffs getting plenty of room in the mix here as well.
The band slow the beat down for ‘Water Table Line’ with the ‘Darklands’ era by Jesus and Mary Chain coming to mind musically (‘April Skies’) with perhaps some Velvet Underground type feel in the vocals. The biggest obstacle on this one is the song can feel a little monotonous due to its length at four and a half minutes. The extended guitar solo is very well done, but they could have trimmed this song down a bit elsewhere. ‘Off the Rails’ gets us back up at full speed and hits the sweet spot, bringing to mind Little Richard, Chuck Berry by way of Izzy Stradlin through a transistor radio. This one sits with my other favorites from the album and will be finding its way into my playlists for an extended period of time. Wrapping up the album is ‘Bars of the Song’ where the band incorporate elements of a 50’s rock ballad. This confessional is perfectly placed with the vocals dripping sincerity and bringing the album to a solid close.
Cheap Gunslingers could have easily come from decades ago, and I would not have been surprised if someone had told me this album was a re-release from the end of the 70’s or beginning of the 80’s. This album leaves me wanting to hear more from the band in the future as this clearly sets up expectations for them to deliver in the future. When this album hits the mark, which it does far more than it misses, it is a rocking good time and should be welcomed by a lot of people who love rock n roll.
‘Cheap Gunslingers’ is available now.
Author: Gerald Stansbury