by Fred Mills
Straight outta Toledo, Ohio, and currently taking LP numero five on the road, Five Horse Johnson comes signed, sealed, delivered and even stamped — as the CD booklet proudly announces — “boogie coalition approved.” Close contemporary kin might include Raging Slab (who coined the term “boogie coalition”), Nashville Pussy, Atomic Bitchwax, etc., but the actual tale of the tape extends way, way back — all the way to high-octane bruisers such as Mountain, Johnny Winter and (the once-mighty) Aerosmith.
Curiously, the album kicks off on an incongruous note; “Cry Rain” sounds like a heavier version of Pearl Jam’s “Even Flow.” Soon enough, though, the FHJ pedal gets stomped to the metal: “Cherry Red” is full-gallop, mane-swinging boogie; “Soul Digger” rams harp-fed boogie through a Beefheartian blooze sieve; and “Three At A Time” is so Skynyrdly in its Southern-rock bluster, you’d swear they dug up poor ol’ Ronnie Van Z’s rotting corpse and forced him to swig from the band’s communal jug of Jack.
All in all, the cumulative effect of 45 minutes of this glorious thud-crud is akin to getting locked in the back of a conversion van, circa 1976, the unventilated air thick with Thai stick bong fumes while the 8-track player mercilessly blares the first Black Oak Arkansas rec over and over, your cranium pounding louder and louder each time the inevitable kachunk! of the 8-track’s channel change spools around. …
Factor in some ace sleeve art courtesy Mark Dancey — who ain’t clowning around, rendering the Johnson boys in colorfully hirsute, Marshall Amp/whiskey bottle-worshiping terms — and Hamtramck drummer Mike Alonso, and you’ve got a sooper-stoopid Motor City-related artfact (Small Stone is a Detroit label), well worth clutching to your heaving l’il chest.
E-mail Fred Mills at email@example.com.