CD Reviews for 05/01/07 – Graham Parker, Los Straitjackets

Compact Capsules for 05/01/07
by Dan Ferguson

Graham Parker
Don’t Tell Columbus
Bloodshot Records BS-140

While he may not be the angry pub rocker of ’70s yore, Graham Parker on his superb new release called Don’t Tell Columbus confidently struts a singing and songwriting persona that has lost little of the signature snarl and bite that enamored him to rock fans back in the late 1970s when he was turning out such certified masterpieces as Howlin Wind, Heat Treatment and Squeezing Out Sparks. (Let us not forget that this is the guy who spewed out a rocking salvo called “Mercury Poisoning” after departing the label of the same name. It doesn’t get more scathing than that.) Intelligence, sarcasm, and wit are all over the dozen songs comprising this latest release. It also rocks pretty darn good. Be it advice to the powers that be (“Stick To the Plan”), recalling simpler times (the metaphorically filled “The Other Side of the Reservoir”), or taking a swipe at his pop culture in his former homeland (“England’s Latest Clown”), Parker displays a deftness and heady insight with the written word that only years at the game can spawn. In all, Don’t Tell Columbus presents a singer/songwriter who is evolving with the times, isn’t afraid to speak his mind in song, and gives us songs that are completely relevant in this day and age. The only difference between now and 1979 is maybe a little more strum and twang to the music than the feisty pub rock of yesteryear. (Bloodshot Records, 3039 W. Irving Park Road, Chicago, IL 60618, or

Los Straitjackets
Rock en Espanol Vol. 1
Yep Roc YEP2135

While those masked men of instrumental surf & roll, Los Straitjackets, take top billing on the new longplayer Rock en Espanol Vol. 1, it is singer cats like Big Sandy (of Big Sandy & Fly-Rite Boys fame), Cesar Rosas from Los Lobos, who also produced the record, and East L.A. brown-eyed rock ‘n’ soul legend Little Willie G. who help take this album from a real good rock & roll record to a great one. Known mostly for his rockabilly and Western Swing-leaning work with his band The Fly-Rite Boys, Big Sandy and Los Straitjackets first joined forces early in the decade with a 7-incher of el puro rock en Espanol which paired an early Freddie Fender number from when he was known as Eddie Con Los Shades (“Que Mala”) with an equally spiced number titled “La Plaga”. What seemed like a real good match at the time has seen the two forces reunite here and there over the years. With Rock en Espanol Vol. 1, they go for the gusto in a big time way (with plenty of touring on the docket to promote the album). If you’re a sucker for American pop tunes given the Latin rock & pop treatment, Rock en Espanol Vol. 1 what with covers like “All Day and All of the Night”, “Dizzy Miss Lizzy”, Motown nugget “Gimme Little Sign”, “Wild Thing” and “Devil Woman” is a no brainer. Simply put, this 14-song release is a certified party starter. The additions of Mr. Rosas and Little Willie G. are only icing on the cake. And maybe the best thing about this album is the “Vol 1” attached to the title. Hopefully more is on the way, and pronto. (Yep Roc Records, P.O. Box 4821, Chapel Hill, NC 27515, or

Los Straitjackets with Big Sandy in tow play this summer’s Rhythm & Roots Festival at Ninigret Park in Charlestown, RI. Check out
(Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 – 9 pm on WRIU-FM 90.3. He lives in Peace Dale and can be reached at [email protected].)<...