That's right, kids, after three impressive solo releases from each of these stars of the underground, they momentarily join forces for a fun, loose-rockin' hoe-down. Prolific peeps, these Drag City-ites.
Tramps recalls super collabs of the past by the likes of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (a Déjà Vu of the new millenium, if you will). For the record, Callahan, Hagerty and Frost each contributed two original songs, chose four additional covers, and let the tape roll. What came out the other end is a collection of gems that hit you in the head, heart and ass. Ouch!
The gang comes out punching with "Zero Degrees." Callahan takes first blood at lead vocals, armed, as usual, with the low and warm voice that has graced many a Smog album. He's backed up by the Murphy brothers' relentless drumming, Hagerty's boppy bass lines and slide guitar, and strings for good measure. The result is a great opener to this crazy ride.
Frost's "Leaving the Army," along with the other slower tracks, adds a nice contrast to the upbeat rockers. With the almost psychedelic-sounding strings and reeds and dreamy guitars, she somberly suggests, "I'm thinking about leaving the Army / Turning in my uniform / There's always a wake up by the big explosions / Just outside of my door." Strangely prophetic, indeed, and indicative of her latest work.
By contrast, Hagerty's "Texas Dogleg" recalls the guitar-heavy boogie-rock found on previous Royal Trux albums, while the fun and simple "Everyday" gives us a glimpse of where he might be going.
Perhaps the most interesting track here is a cover of Lou Reed's "Charley's Girl." It has a boogie swagger that'll make your bootie swagger while singing along with the band's backup chorus of "la las" at the top-o-your lungs. Also worth mentioning is the version of Randy Newman's "Old Man," which could almost be mistaken for those kings of quiet, Low.
And just when you thought it was safe to kick back and sit out the last couple of songs, comes (out of goddamn nowhere, no less) their take on Black Sabbath's classic "N.I.B." Hagerty belts out his best Ozzie and the band cranks out some serious jams that would have the Ozzman himself fist-pumping in his bedroom (and even biting off a dove's head or two).
It's not every day that a group of prolific and stylistically different musicians is able to come together to bring us a great collection of tunes. But I guess that's what often makes independent labels so special: They're like families, and families have reunions from time to time. Hmmm--must've been something in the potato salad.