Dead Rock West are well established as one of the most creative of LA’s modern country bands, with four albums to date that include a great collection of Everly Brothers songs and other discs that make the most of the talents of singer/ songwriters Cindy Wasserman and Frank Lee Drennan. The band is able to cross all kinds of boundaries and draw from multiple styles. On their newest, More Love, the band includes the principals on vocals, guitars, and starbourine; and also includes Davide Carpenter on bass, DJ Bonebreak on drums and vibes, Geoff Pearlman on guitars, and keyboard work by Phil Parlapiano. The John Doe-produced project is nicely recorded on vintage equipment by Dave Way and other studio help is on hand from Greg Leisz, Mike Bolger, and Elliot Easton. No surprise, there is a distinct throwback feel to some of the tracks to the more smoothed out tracks from Doe and Bonebreak’s classic LA punk band X.
The 12 single length tracks, all but one original, kick off with the title tune, and the magic kicks in right away–Wasserman and Drennen harmonize, rocking above shimmering electric guitars and accordion, singing of “love that overshadows the greatest lights.” It is a hell of a song and a highlight, and Wasserman’s “Boundless Fearless Love” keeps the level up, powering ahead with another radio-ready anthem. A third straight ace hits the board with “Stereo,” as Wasserman takes a commanding vocal on a song about listening to a car radio while stressing about a relationship.
In quieter moments, “Radio Silence” is beautifully realized, steel guitar, and floating keyboard flourishes give it an ethereal atmosphere. Wasserman’s solo vocal on “Singing on the Telephone” is wonderfully expressive–and shows the range of a band that can play post punk and soft keyboard love songs in the same set.
Drennen has his own spotlight moment on “Darkness Never Tells,” a minor chord, mysterious groove that isn’t long, but peers behind his shades long enough to get the listener a dark glimpse inside. He takes the mood and expands it with “Bleeding Blue,” where the knobs get tuned up and the Doors-feel organ drops in to duel with punk/acid rock guitar in a feedback battle “What you said or what you did/ To drop me fast like I stink of death.” As in the other tracks here, the band is able to get a lot done in well under four minutes.
The only track that doesn’t really seem to click is “Tell Me Goodbye,” which is a mid-tempo country waltz with Drennen in the vocal slot that never really catches fire. The closer is next and makes up for it: the only cover, Sam Cooke’s “Bring It on Home to Me.” The version bristles with live energy as the two vocalists tear into it with harmonies and tradeoffs, then give way to the guitarists doing likewise.
More Love shows that Dead Rock West is in the forefront of the West Coast modern country scene, a superb album.