If you wish Springsteen's new release sounded more like "Darkness on the Edge of Town" than "Nebraska," then TEN THE HARD WAY by The Hoopsnakes is for you. Produced by E Street alumnus Garry Tallent and past Steve Miller producer Lynn Peterson, this album is a diverse collection of songs from and about Middle America. The Hoopsnakes should know! Their Minneapolis hometown provides the perfect inspiration for this album which draws its influences from Asbury rock, New Orleans R & B, and Chicago blues.
The album opens with a homage to rock 'n' roll and being on the road, "Cigarettes & Gas." This energetic rocker belted out by lead singer and songwriter Bruce McCabe would fit perfectly on a classic Southside Johnny album. The parallel is so close that on "One Good Reason," you could imagine the Asbury Jukes playing this song in a crowded New Jersey club. Throughout TEN THE HARD WAY, McCabe takes us through much of the classic faire for standard bar-room rock. In the hands of a less capable band, this album would fall flat but the Hoopsnakes deliver a powerful performance. A nice example of this is "The World Ain't Round" in which McCabe sings "I've had too many good friends/ That I watched sail away/And they went right off over the edge." It is the artists' ability to shed new light on well-worn topics that make this album such a pleasure.
There are plenty of broken hearts to go around as well. In "Bad Luck," a pounding beat provided by bassist Mick Massof and drummer Jim Novak provides the gut-wrenching sensation a man feels for hurting his woman. "I've Been A Dreamer" tells the story of a man who continues to dream about an unfaithful lover. Haunted by his memories, he is not sure if he could face the woman who betrayed him should they meet on the street.
The most outstanding cut of the album is "Blues Attack." The Hoopsnakes deliver one of the most straight-ahead rocking blues numbers written since the death of Stevie Ray Vaughan. Kenny Holman's solo sax sounds for all the world like a three-piece horn section. This number demands that you get up and dance.
One aspect of this album that makes carefully listening a must is the musicianship of the band. The four members are truly working together as a team. Listen to the interplay between McCabe's keyboard and the guitar of Charlie Bingham on the slow bluesy number "The World Ain't Round" or the midtempo "Bad Luck."
The ten cuts on TEN THE HARD WAY close with the inspirational "Further Down the Road." In this song, McCabe wonders aloud why we allow hunger and pollution to continue when, "The further down this road we go/The more it seems the less we know." As a whole, the Hoopsnakes succeed brilliantly on their latest release bringing new life to classic American roots-rock. Pay attention, Springsteen!
TEN THE HARD WAY by The Hoopsnakes can be found on Flying Fish Records (MPD 6007) and can be ordered directly from Flying Fish Records, Inc. (1-800-FYI-FISH).