The clang of guitars and gruff manly vocals do not always fill me with excitement but in this case, the more I listened to Timothy Alice and the Dead Star Band the more I heard and the more I liked. Alice (who changed his name from Henderson when he realised he was not unique in being a performer so named) hails from Buffalo, New York, and is accompanied by Matt Distasio bass, Alexander Crumlish drums and Andrew Kothenon who produced the album along with Alice.
Alice’s description of the band and their music is that they reflect the: “American rustbelt in 2019, conjuring images of raucous dive bars and late-night drives through battered, snow-covered streets lined with neon signs and long-shuttered storefronts… We are a Rock and Roll band with strong influences from classic country (George Jones, Hank Williams, Tanya Tucker, etc), American soul (Otis Redding, Lee Moses, Solomon Burke), as well as Laurel Canyon singer-songwriters of the ’70s garage rock, and ’00s British guitar rock”.
All of that seems an ambitious and heady brew, and helpfully Alice divides the album into which songs he feels reflect the appropriate genre.
‘If You Come Back to Me Now’ and ‘4 A.M.’ are both considered to be the soul-influenced tracks, which is more apparent in the latter, if less so the former which perhaps is better suited to the roots-rock section. ‘4 A.M.’, though, offers a vocal which very much fits the title and genre – you could see it as a show closer at the end of a long night, maybe for the lovers left on the floor still arm in arm? I have to admit that I prefer the vocals when Alice reins them in a little and ‘4 A.M.’ is a solid and soulful track.
Under the heading of roots-rock come the songs ‘2 A.M’ (is there a theme here?) and ‘Shadow on My Tail’. ‘2 A.M’ opens the album and does have a catchy riff and a narrator seemingly beset by temptations and determined to be better than that.
The indie influenced tracks are said to be ‘Honey Pie’, ‘Just Take My Hand’ and ‘Holding out for Something’. ‘Honey Pie’ makes use of some spacey musical effects which might be a little harsh on the ear whilst ‘Holding Out’ features another one of those neat little guitar intros. It’s a bit hard to see the Indie influence here but these are still three perfectly acceptable tracks.
Finally, three songs with a Folk/Americana influence – ‘Oh, Chicago’, ‘Golden Corvette’, and probably the best track on the album, ‘Fortunate Son’. ‘Oh, Chicago’ has a more relaxed vocal which probably works best on this album. ‘Corvette’ and ‘Favourite’ very clearly reflect the genre that Alice claims to be acoustic and in the case of the latter, sparse and affecting, with a lyric: “Its nothing I’ve done / to be made a fortunate son”, that makes a real impact. What we hear is a recognition that even in hard times the average white American male is a lot better off than most.
Rock and Roll often conjures up leaden rhythm sections, hackneyed guitar and dumb, obvious lyrics, and that is not the case here. Alice has a fine voice and the backing is interesting and generally cliche free. The lyrics vary and there are one or two phrases that do grate a little but ‘Fortunate Son’ shows imagination that augurs well for the future. There is variety in what is on offer, the lack of which is something to be lamented elsewhere. This is a very promising first full-length recording which promises much for the future.