Written in Dayton, Ohio, and recorded in Dayton, Kentucky, Cricketbows’ Raised On Rock And Roll is at once a starkly realistic product of its environment as well as a fantastical voyage into a magical and mysterious multiverse of its own design.
The album, featuring artwork from Bay Area legend Alan Forbes (AFI, The Black Crowes), Raised on Rock And Roll sees release today, April 20, 2021.
If we are to believe the fundamental principles of theoretical physics, we can rest assured that somewhere out there is a band called Cricketbows whose albums can be found in the collections of vintage vinyl connoisseurs alongside their contemporaries like The Beatles, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. They travel by stretch limousine, playing sold-out arenas on bills with Fleetwood Mac, Eric Clapton, The Faces and The Eagles. Rumors run rampant about their involvement in witchcraft and the occult and their fans study their album art like a newly found ancient scroll and argue the merits of their heavier works versus their more country-tinged later era. Rock journalists working for glossy magazines publish unhinged accounts of the decadence, debauchery and mental decline within the band and their most devoted followers tack the photos from their magazine spreads to their bedroom walls and add flame to the bowls of their Cricketbows bongs with their disposable Cricketbows lighters.
While Cricketbow’s Raised On Rock And Roll LP is at once both a spaceship and a covered wagon fueled by nostalgia and aimed straight at your heart, alas, this message comes to you from a segment of the multiverse where Cricketbows is an independent, underground band stranded in the second decade of the two-thousands where classic rock as an art form is fifty-something years old and is both heralded as part of the foundation of popular culture as well as reviled for its antiquity.
So what should a displaced classic rock band that’s stuck in the modern era of political unrest, pandemics and a novelty fueled musical climate, do differently to compensate? The answer is, of course, not a damn thing.
During the title track’s opening line, the band’s Stratocaster wielding lead vocalist Chad Wells sets the tone that this is a classic rock album and it is unapologetic: (“I speak electric guitar, in fire orange and bright blue – and I bow to the lightning of Elvis and Bowie and Frehley”). The album takes the listener on a trip with forays through blistering, barn-burning rock and roll and scenic forays through more pastoral worlds of acoustic guitars and pedal steels where the band weaves songs about their rural Ohio surroundings and the loves of their lives.
On the song “Gracious Peasant,” Wells provides a “Crawling King Snake”-esque attitude while channeling the voice of a psychedelic mushroom that has been sent to deliver the gift of communication and consciousness to a prehistoric Earth (“We’ve come from far off kingdoms, to bring you speech. So come enjoy this flesh and eat it like a peach”). Co-lead Vocalist Aarika Watson provides a soulful wail that is sure to awaken the cosmic spirits she is calling upon. Lead Guitarist Michael Bisig blazes through guitar licks that are all at once Slash and Jimi Hendrix while drummer Kyle Sweney plays tight and powerful grooves and bassist Christopher Corn slips and slides through the low tones with his signature fretless bass playing.
On the track “Ride Or Die,” what starts as a very convincing gospel/soul hymn written to celebrate the band’s den-mother, Chad’s wife Michelle (“She’s ride or die – she gets me high”), shifts into a full-tilt glam rock strut custom built for a more muscular New York Dolls or KISS, who is mentioned here for the second time on the album (“So let’s do the time warp one more time, and dance like the Motor City Five, And pretend that KISS is still alive, with someone who’s ride or die”).
The song “Necronomicon” ends the first half of the album with a dark, heavy song full of distorted bass played with a violin bow. Covering themes of loss and pain, it takes the listener to dire and bleak corners of the human experience (“Paint a pretty picture for me of a dead thing”) before landing softly in the second half of the album that fully immerses itself in a classic, cosmic country and folk oriented sound.
In the songs “Ohio Valley Springtime” (“and the weeds grow as high as you feel”) and “Kentucky Mountain Lady” (“it took us three joints to get down here”), Cricketbows conjure the feeling of a slower, laid back, rural existence. This is Midwestern country bred of the Ohio River Valley, but that wouldn’t be out of place in 1960’s Laurel Canyon or on the softer side of Led Zeppelin III.
At the end of the second half of the Raised On Rock and Roll album is the paisley tinged vent “Saccharine Sweet” (“and when I turn to leave, I find my friend is much more like a fiend”) that tells a two-faced acquaintance “the cold-hard truth” before taking an epic, luscious turn into even deeper, nostalgic country rock territory.
Of course, if this all came out in 1977 there would be a Grammy for Raised On Rock and Roll‘s production swami Mike Montgomery (The Breeders, Buffalo Killers), and a lasting spot in Rolling Stone Magazine’s Top Classic Albums list. But in this particular alternate universe the band is proud just to say that the album exists and stands as a monument to the music that has inspired them, and to the home in which it was created.