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L.A. Beat

Cracker combines country and upbeat funk tinged garage rock on Berkeley to Bakersfield

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Back in the day in northern California there was a band called Cracker.
 They had a minor hit in the ’90s called “Low” and then seemed to vanish.
 Luckily they are still around, blending both their country roots and their garage rock/ punk sides on their new double album “Berkeley to Bakersfield.Click here to hear Cracker
 The Berkeley Side explores  their funky rock side with the original line up of David Lowery, bassist Davey Faragher, guitarist Johnny  Hickman, drummer Michael Urbano, keyboardist Thayer Sarrano, saxophonist Marc Gilley and additional keyboardist Mark Golde.
 They start off slowly with the Shins’  style laid back acoustic groove of  “Torches and pitchforks and” quickly pick up to pace  with the urgent, scrappy rocker “March of the Billionaires,” which has a Bob Mould feel.
 It is the first time, according to the liner notes, that they have recorded together in almost 20 years. And its about bloody time because they are fantastic together blending alternative country/ cow-punk  along the lines of St. Louis’ The Bottle Rockets  on slower songs like El Comandante and El Cerrito.
 They show their more rock and roll side with the outstanding “Beautiful” and the Dandy Warholish “Life in the Big City.”
 They have catchy choruses  and plenty of addictive harmonies and a  crunchy guitar sound you just have to love.
 The last song on the first CD “Waited My Whole Life,” provides a great transition to the more pure Bakersfield country of  the Bakersfield CD.
 It sounds like a completely different band, well it pretty much is,  other than the common link of Lowery’s vocals, guitar and banjo playing and guitarist Johnny Hickman though Davey Faragher adds backing vocals and Thayer Sarrano adds more keyboards and vocals. Meanwhile fiddler Luke Moeller and pedal steel player Matt Stoessel add the requisite amount of twang to the music which immediately grabs the ear with the first track “ California CountryBoy.”
 Jeremy Wheatley adds drums and Sal Maida is locked in as the band‘s rhythm section on Bakersfield.
In a more just music world, the dark themed  second track “Almond Hill”  would be a modern country hit single along the lines of something Billy Currington would record. So does the raunchy sounding “King of Bakersfield.” “ Get On Down the Road” is an upbeat, catchy country rocker that sticks with you.
“ I’m Sorry Baby” is already getting played on Sirius XM's Outlaw country station, which is I suppose where  Cracker belongs as they decidedly  and proudly don’t fit in anywhere on mainstream airwaves.
“Play it like weird, this ain’t Nashville,” advises Lowery to steel guitarist  Matt Stoessel on “King of Bakersfield.”
 “ Do what you want as long as you ain’t hurtin’ no-one,” from that same song sums up the philosophy of the band and their new double CD.
 There is plenty of pretty playing and toe tapping rhythms and I can’t get enough of that sighing steel guitar.
Another upbeat country tune “ The San Bernardino Boy” will keep your toes tapping to the end thanks to Lowrey’s chunking banjo and some bluesy dobro. the CD ends witha  pair of laid back country ballads “ When you Come Down” and “ Where  have those Days  Gone.”
— by Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor

CD: From Berkeley to Bakersfield
Band: Cracker
Genre: Country rock
Record Company: 429 Records

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