Review by Frankie Hagan
Performers have to be made of pretty sturdy stuff to endure the rigors and trials of the music industry. Thankfully, the Cigar Store Indians and their special brand of swingin’ rock ‘n’ roll, country western ballads and rockabilly riffs have stood the test of time.
The band has been long overdue in releasing a new album, and they do not disappoint their fans with their latest CD, Built of Stone (Overall Records). Two major changes separate this record from CSI’s previous two releases: The line-up has shifted slightly with the departure of Jim Lavender, known for a rockabilly-surf sound, to include the more traditional rock ‘n’ roll of new lead guitarist Jeff Sprayberry. Additionally, the tempo of these recordings is more subdued than El Baile De la Cobra, a CD known for fast-rocking swing tracks, and the songs on Built of Stone explore new directions.
The album’s opener “Hit Me” is a pleasing, fast-paced, energetic single, as would be expected from this group. But it is followed by a trio of reflective love-inspired tracks, highlighted in the glorious standout, “Other Side Of The Pillow,” which shows Ben Friedman’s excellence as a songwriter and is this reviewer’s pick for a great new western-styled swing. With the hard-rocking “Copycat Season,” the band subtly asks not to be pigeon-holed as they seek out new avenues of experimentation, growth and change.
Many of the tracks are reflective, from the misty “Ballerina Dressed in Black” to the album’s closer, “Nothing Else Matters.” “Blue Mountain Girl” is an interesting departure into hillbilly romance, while “Weight of the World,” a well-written, rockin’ number with a catchy riff, shows off the new lead guitarist. Overall, the skillful musicianship of band mainstays, like bassist Keith Perissi, drummer Paul Barrie, and lead singer and rhythm guitarist Ben Friedman, shows that the Cigar Store Indians are made of durable material, indeed.
Enjoyed this review? Click here for Frankie Hagan’s write-up on the film soundtrack to De-Lovely.