Playing boogie-rock guitar is fun, and it is a mistake to take it too seriously. Strapping on a Strat or a Les Paul, turning up the knobs while attacking the strings in a primal expression of freedom is a uniquely joyful experience, and it really comes through as such on Indian Joe’s Red Rock. Joe has been part of the inland San Diego County country and rock scene for years, most recently as a band member in Dusty and LoveNotes. His disc is unapologetically plugged-in, with a dozen original rockers featuring his guitars, harp and vocals, and drums from Brian “Nucci” Cantrell. Soft folk-rock lovers, spoiler alert: this is a boogie album that rocks front to back.
Joe is clearly in his element and having a blast; the good-time vibe carries over from the artist to the listener. He sings all the tunes and while his voice isn’t the prime attraction, it is a deep bluesy growl that fits most of the material fine, sort of Wolfman Jack meets ZZ Top. Most of Joe’s songs work as frameworks for his clean guitar leads and slide guitar work, with a few telling stories about riding his Harley and the colorful characters that populate the barrooms and other weekend night hangouts in the back country. The tunes don’t all work, but hey, the object is rocking out and having fun.
Several of the songs are about Joe’s calling to be a rocker, including “Raised on Rock ‘n’ Roll” and “Play My Guitar,” which start the disc. These are full of good guitar playing (especially “Guitar”), and a lot of lyrics about guitar technique that betray Joe’s background as a guitar teacher. “My Kind of Music” is better, getting his idea across with serpentine licks that snake around the beat, then a sizzling slide guitar lead break (most of the tunes on the disc include extended, tasty solos by Joe on guitar, slide, and harp). A few of the tunes rework well-worn country/rock templates, no harm, no foul: “Let’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Tonight” is a pleasant Chuck Berry-inspired retelling of “Six Days on the Road”.
Lyrically, Joe isn’t shooting for anything fancier than a good time, and maybe a good buzz. One gets the feeling that if pot comes up for legalization, he will probably vote yes, and his references to the saloon life (“Snake Bite Boogie,” “Silver Slipper”) are tributes to hard living. As he puts it in “Dancing Shoes,” to a steady boogie pulse, “We gonna jump and shout/Get down and boogie, jitter bug, and jive/Swing that thing until we’re dizzy.” Joe’s quieter moments, on “The Great Escape,” are spent on his bike escaping from the rat race, with Steve McQueen nostalgia, “Sometimes you have to be crazy to keep your sanity.” On this track, as elsewhere, Joe is having fun.
Red Rock works as a personal expression of Indian Joe’s affection for guitar rock, and it can be infectious.
Available at cdbaby.com/cd/indianjoe