As I had mentioned in a post about Junior Kimbrough, I did not grow up listening to the blues. When I considered the blues, my mind sprang to middling and unexciting Eric Clapton songs. My true love was guitar-driven rock and roll music, and while I intellectually knew that rock and roll came from the blues, nothing that I had heard really sold me on that notion (other than maybe Led Zeppelin's cover of "When the Levee Breaks”). I have come to see the error of my ways, and it was from hearing bands like Left Lane Cruiser, an electrifying two piece blues rock band from Fort Wayne, Indiana. The band consists of Freddie “Joe” Evans IV on slide guitar and vocals and Brenn Beck on percussion (ranging from the traditional drum kit to a washboard). Left Lane Cruiser takes the hypnotic groove of the North Mississippi hill country blues, like the aforementioned Junior Kimbrough, and injects it with the frenetic energy of punk rock. Joe’s vocal style is a gruff and unrefined bark that sounds like it was raised on a little too much Jim Beam and Miller Lite, which is appropriate given his description of the music as “dirty drinkin’ blues”.
To the fortune of lovers of live music, Left Lane Cruiser has toured across the United States tirelessly since their inception, stopping nearly everywhere from traditional venues to BBQ shops. They always make it a point of visiting Lancaster, a small city in Pennsylvania that I grew up near, and one that most musicians bypass on the way to larger cities like Pittsburgh or Philadelphia. Since I first saw them perform at a blues festival in Lancaster in 2019, I have been able to see them a total of seven times (a number that would almost certainly be higher if it had not been for the Coronavirus pandemic that put a halt to live music for a while).
They played at Zoetropolis Theater in Lancaster this past Friday, and when they asked the crowd what songs they wanted to hear, I suggested “Overtaken”, one of my favorite tracks on their 2013 album Rock Them Back To Hell. To that request, they laughed and remarked that it was a song that they have never played live, but added that it was inspired by their time touring in Europe. Whenever one of their hosts would urge them to pass another vehicle on the road, they would say “overtake this motherfucker.” Brenn added that “overtake” sounds a lot cooler than “pass”, and I tend to agree. With a little luck, they will try to incorporate the song into their live repertoire in the future.
The song does a good job of showcasing Bren Beck’s unconventional use of percussion, with the prominent use of a cow bell throughout. And while Joe’s guitarwork is central to the song, it is a slightly more reserved loping rhythm that allows some of the focus to be on Brenn’s drumming. Lyrically, the song is pretty funny with some choice lines like “the police breaking down, shaking down with technology, baby yeah. You get a ticket in the mail, say they caught you on photography.”
If you have not done so yet, buy a few of Left Lane Cruiser’s albums and try to catch them live whenever they come to town!