CD Review: Missing Cats’ “Larry Brown Amen”

Missing Cats

Larry Brown Amen (Redeye Label)

 By Brian Arsenault

Talk about pre-release buzz, Missing Cats got it..

Talk about rock ‘n roll hearts. Missing Cats got it.

Larry Brown Amen may be the purest rock ‘n roll album I have heard in a couple of years.  That is if you consider a combination southernhillcountryrockabillydeltabluesdirtywhiteboy strain of rock ‘n roll about as good as it gets. I do.

“. . . people passing by all seem to be going the other way.”

Missing Cats, primarily singer Sherman Ewing and pianist John Hermann backed by a bunch of excellent sidemen, show an affinity for each other and the music which is quite fine.

Sherman Ewing, John Hermann with bassist Mike Mills

Ewing’s singing has been compared to Dylan but I don’t hear it. I do hear a better pitched Joe Walsh on the fast stuff and echoes of The Band on the slow stuff.  Yet he has a voice of his own.

Hermann has been compared to Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino and it’s true. But no one I’ve seen yet has mentioned Leon Russell which I’m betting is a nearer influence, not just in time but in tempo and style.

There are a bunch of interesting songs.   “1/2 Way to the Top” may be about one’s fate in the music industry. Or life. Or both.

“. . . people coming up behind you leave you face first down . . . Is your heart to blame?”

It’s not clear to me which guitarist is playing where on this song, but it’s a collaborative effort and terrific. Anthony Krizan, Luther Dickinson, and Guthrie Trapp all have a guitar credit here and elsewhere.

Earlier on the album, “How We Go From Here” has some truly remarkable guitar work. Is that Luther Dickinson coming in with that southern longing style of play?

“. . . one way or another, I’ll hit the mark.”

“Body in the River” raises the devil at the start with a blazing electric guitar riff and hard struck piano underneath. In comes a bluesy acoustic guitar and raw vocal with that same piano still pulsing.  Here’s where you feel that Jerry Lee sense that you’re going to hell and you just relish it.  Satan did say to bring it on.

“Your Guess is as Good as Mine” is a slow rocker in the best tradition. Remember slow dancing.

“. . . love the beach, hate the sun.”

 I’ve noted before, in another review, Dylan’s reported comment about Dire Straits — that he liked them because they sound like one guy playing.  Missing Cats may have something better going, a bunch of guys playing in sync to a shared notion of rock ‘n roll music.

“. . . time will never take away what we have.”

There’s some melancholy for me in the album, though.  It doesn’t advance the form.  It echoes down through the decades much that is fine in rock, and there’s every possibility the form has reached its limits as a music form. So that’s hardly a criticism.  Just a regret that there’s no place left to go.

“. . . battle flags torn and frayed.”

Yet rock ‘n roll is still its own justification — it’s only rock ’n roll but I like it, like it, yes I do. If it’s reached the point where only excellence of execution and grown up lyrics remain, well, so too have the blues and some say jazz.

“. . . pay no mind, just come and go.”

To read more posts, reviews and columns by Brian Arsenault click HERE.

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