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Steve Conte & The Crazy Truth

Steve Conte & The Crazy Truth

www.steveconteandthecrazytruth.com

There’s a kind of consistency already established here as you’ll notice above ? But play this set and you will know that unpredictability is pretty much key to this artist. Known to many of us for his blazing and oh-so-right guitar work with the esteemed New York Dolls where he meshes with bassist Sami and original axeman Sylvain with great aplomb and sparky timing, Conte is a player’s player really but equally an entertainer. So whereas some guitar aces don’t truly have male and female appeal, the notes and jagged chordal fragments that fly from this cat’s fingers don’t eschew the basic sexiness and punch of rock’n'roll music.

Stylewise, some have commented on the Sylvain/Conte pairing as on a par with Richards/Wood but to these ears it’s the classic fourhanded interplay and weaving of the MC5’s late great Fred Sonic Smith and Wayne Kramer that is evoked at times. Viz the classic MC5 cut ‘Looking At You’ where Smith’s fuzz chording belts the tune along and Kramer’s piercing runs spiral across, over and under the emphatic rhythm. Understanding this essential dynamic is a gift, totally lost to the Primal Screams and Iron Maidens of this world. It’s their loss. But Conte’s strongest suit.

Back to this album, it’s good for Conte to have mixing and mastering in the respective hands of Niko Bolas and Richard Todd. The latter has worked on Tom Petty and Green Day recordings and has the ear for what Conte pulls off on these selections. Steve opted to record live in a room, bass, drums and guitar so the resulting tracks have a feel much closer to vintage Doctor Feelgood than, say, the decade-long collages of Guns’n'Roses. Conte’s experience means that you could parachute him mid-set into a performance by, say, Mitch Ryder or Tina Turner and he would hit the frets running. And to his credit he works to the song and not as a chance to show off so if you dig the likes of Earl Slick, this really is your stop.

Titles like ‘Junk Planet’ and ‘Gypsy Cab’ have a sweaty rock vibe, sure enough and when you have king Doll David Johansen dropping by to contribute harp plus the odd Stevie Wonder horn man chipping in, it is the icing on the rock cake.

Just dig the tremelo’d dusty spook-groove of ‘Texas T’ where our man displays a gritty vocal as tenor sax creeps into the tune and dirty chords cut across the beat. Conte doesn’t play too much, he waits his moments. A cutting, diving guitar solo jumps in and fades back into the tread and gruff whisper.

‘The Goods Are Odd’ has slashing Detroit feel, all it needs is Iggy Pop coming in on the chorus. DJ wails on the harp, knowing lyric and a skidding, fluid guitar solo.

‘Get Off’ is catchy as a disease and would surely fit into the Dolls’ live set ? Just a suggestion, lads…

Suddenly we’re in New Orleans voodoo land with ‘Busload of Hope’, Dr John ‘Gris Gris’ chorale et al and slide guitar runs here and there against the backbeat. And if you want a tender love song, just try ‘Strumpet-Hearted Monkey Girl’…OK, it’s Chuck Berry-driven but at least there’s no chance of a Boys 2 Men or Westlife version, eh ? But Van Morrison should do ‘Indie Girl’, that’s for sure. Will Conte admit he wrote that one for Van, maybe ?

The best rock’n'roll album that has come our way since the Lords of Altamont’s last. Just don’t ever go cleaned-up and over-produced on us Steve, we love the naturally dirty groove of this rock band sound where high volume and showing off is never king but the dynamic rules

Pete Sargeant    www.fairhearing.co.uk

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