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Supersuckers Must’ve Been Live

By Frank Meyer, Contributing Editor
Friday, April 19, 2002 @ 9:11 AM

(Mid-Fi Recordings)

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Must’ve Been Live once again stakes the very real claim that the Supersuckers may in fact be the “greatest rock n’ roll band in the world” as their album of the same name proclaims so boldly. With every outing, this Tucson via Seattle foursome lay claim to that title and give every other band with a breath in their chest a run for their money. I mean, I’ll be damned if 1999’s Evil Powers of Rock n’ Roll wasn’t the meanest, most hellraisin’ slab of wax since Appetite for Destruction, but with a healthy nod to the country stylings of Willie Nelson and their co-conspirator, the mighty Steve Earle. Why just one taste of any of their Sub Pop output will testify that these boys are the real deal and can beat just about anyone at their own game. Hell, on their "Best Of" album, The Greatest Rock N’ Roll Band in the World, they even tossed out a blistering cover of Ice Cube’s “Dead Homiez” just to teach the rap-rock kids a thing or two and proved they can pull off just about anything. One left turn the band made that has divided many a fan however was their full frontal foray into country music on 1997’s Must Have Been High, a roots rock album that found the band in a more somber space musically, though just as wry and sardonic as ever in the lyrics department. Most fans got it, but some punk rock purists were left scratching their spiky heads in bewilderment. They rock and they roll???

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Must’ve Been Live is a cocksure return to their country western sound in the form of a live album chock full of High cuts, unreleased gems, unlikely covers, hilarious between song banter, and some special guests. Recorded in Dallas, Austin, and San Diego, the 18-song opus is 70 minutes worth of pure rock dynamite. Though the vibe is generally acoustic and moodier than your average Suckers outing, make no mistake about it, this is a rock n’ roll record through and through. To quote their bio, “It’s a ramblin', gamblin', good-time-drinkin', roadhouse rumblin', party-time country hoo-haw” record! From the sarcastic arena rock security anthem “Barricade,” to the tongue-nailed-to-cheek pro-pot call to arms “Non-Addictive Marijuana,” to the hootin’ and hallarin’ sing-a-long “Good Livin’,” (“after the show/come on people toss up the blow/we gotta pack up our shit ‘cause it time to go/Good Livin’!!!!”), the Suckers keep things lively and rambunctious.

But it’s not all partying and shit kickin’ here either, folks. Things get a little mushy sometimes…but that’s okay, all great rock n’ rollers wear their heart on their sleeve and lead vocalist/bassist Eddie Spaghetti is no exception. His duet with Amy Nelson (daughter of Willie) on “Roadworn and Weary and Hungover Together” is downright tender, a tear jerking, beer buzzed ballad that evokes the California easy rock of the ‘70s (and I mean that in a good way). “Cowpoke” is another ballad that is played with complete sincerity and finds the band fitting very comfortably in their worn out, faded, country western blue jeans. Not all their ballads are played so straight faced though, as is evident in the cynical family values anti-anthem “Don’t Go Blue.” Hearing Eddie Spaghetti, the king of devil worshipping, drug-addled, whiskey soaked, hot rod rock n’ roll anthems, croon with complete sincerity about being old fashioned and NOT cursing is just plain funny...and we’re not above a good joke these days are we folks? A little irony? A little jab....

The reason why the Supersuckers can pull all of this off is that after years of touring and cranking out albums the band is a well-oiled, finely tuned rock machine and can play diverse material with ease. Here they are augmented by bassist (Eddie plays acoustic guitar mainly) Clay Bartlett, harmonica player Mickey Raphael, and pedal steel maestros Alan Terhune, Charlie Sanders Jr. and Brian Thomas (also on banjo), and Black Crowes guitarist Audley Freed, who donates some tasty leads on “Image of Me.” Yet with all these extra players, the sound is relaxed, never too busy, never too much, and never overshadowing the core band -- 'cause the Suckers wouldn’t be Super if it weren’t the BAND ("The band, Elwood, the band!!!") -- drummer Dancing Eagle and guitarists Rontrose Heathman and Dan “Thunder” Bolton, the backbone of the organization. Heathman in particular is a blazing lead guitarist in the tradition of the classics like Johnny Winter, Joe Perry and Ronnie Montrose. The guy plays his ass off and even sounds impressive when he’s just strummin’ on an acoustic. A true virtuoso.

Must’ve Been Live is for folks that like a little Johnny Cash along with their Motorhead, whose copy of Exile on Main Street is lying comfortably next to Women and Children First and Highway to Hell, or whose South of Heaven rests carefully against ZZ Top's Deguello. The few, the proud, the damaged. The Supersuckers salute you.


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