Saturday, June 27, 2009

Grand Halls 26

CROSSWIND – “Stompin’ Ground” CD ’98 (Surf, US) – To quote Phil Mogg from the new UFO album (something I’m always keen to do), “Now picture this…here’s the story.” I’m on vacation a month ago with my family. Williamsburg, VA to be exact. After a day at the Ripley’s Museum, the wife & kids hit the pool and I decided to hit nearby Plan 9 Music, believe it or not. After a trip thru the “New CD’s,” snagging a couple goodies like Leprous & Voivod, I couldn’t resist the “Used” & “Local” sections. The former earned the 2007 disc by The Clay People for me & a Kiss anthology for my 7 year old daughter (gotta get her started right…she loves old…and brand new Metallica too, so I guess I’m doing something right). From the latter bin came…wait for it…CROSSWIND – “Stompin’ Ground.” I know, I can hear a pin drop right now ‘cause everybody’s waiting for the punch line, eh? What the hell is CROSSWIND, Ray?

Truth is, I didn’t know either. The cover looked hyper-obscure, the band had (well, 3 of the 4) long hair, the line-up was guitar-bass-drums-etc. and there were several songs in the 6-minute mark. With the price being only $ 5, I slipped it into the stack. Glad I did and I’ll tell you why.

Later that night, I’m sitting back at the hotel, everybody’s crashed out. I’m laying back with the portable Realm-O-Matic, deciding on my pick to end the day with. This here CROSSWIND disc comes sliding out of the bag & I take a little harder look. First off, the band was from Charlotte, NC…so they end up, 11 years later, buried in a “Local” section in VA. I scan the back of the CD…”Recorded at Reflections Studios Church, Jan 10th-11th, 1997.” The tray card explains further that this is CROSSWIND’s second album and that they recorded it in this former church that friends bought to convert into a recording studio. Seems everyone told them their 1st record was good but they really brought the mail live so they decided to take 2 days, get a bunch of family, beer, etc. together and record their sophomore platter in this church/studio. Then I finally notice the inlay card is signed by 2 band members. Ok, minds made up, folks, this is what we’re spinning tonight!

I press “play” and the first cut pulls me in like a 100-foot hydro-electric magnet. Raw-assed riffs come flying out of the speakers courtesy of guitarist Scottie Jordan. Scottie Pippen? Michael Jordan? Well maybe not, but this guy has a seriously bad-assed tone and when he cuts into the solo later in the song, I’m salivating like the pet of a boy named Pavlov. Granted, there are a few songs over the course of this 11-track platter that Jordan doesn’t completely unload on. When he does, he prefers to set the listener’s ears on fire and then scrape them off the sides of his/her head with a rusty putty knife. Honestly, this Michael kicks ass like a volatile cross between, yes our good UFO-friend Vinnie Moore & Stevie Ray V. Now let’s talk about the vocals of Dana Hall. At first, I didn’t realize that the vocalist in CROSSWIND was a lady. Hey, the pics are small and let’s face it, “Dana” can be a male/female name. But I gotta tell you, if you only seek out this CD for one reason alone, let it be Ms. Hall’s voice. This girl absolutely lays down the business and testifies to the Lord throughout the entirety of “Stompin’ Ground.” She gives mad-Axl a run for his money in the GNR-styled aforementioned opener…then the fun really starts.

Check out the very next number, “I’m Down.” Holy shit, is this a lost track from Humble Pie – “Rockin’ The Filmore?” Hall comes off like a badder-than-hell cross between prime-time Janis Joplin and the late Steve Marriott and when she hauls off and belts out “Where you want me!” leading straight into a massive, saw-toothed Jordan guitar onslaught, well I’m thinking I’m not going to be missing the Lincoln I dropped on this baby. And it continues…such good songs, man. The 6 minute ballad “Find My Own” follows, Jordan’s patient chording supplying a sweet base for Dana to open up her soul. Here, Jordan’s guitar is very reminiscent of the best of Rich Robinson and, in fact, the entire feel of the song is very much in the early Black Crowes/”Sticky Fingers” vibe. Elsewhere there’s nary a weak spot to be found. How ‘bout the plaintive, heart-rending ballad “Do Ya,” stretching across it’s 6-minute length with Scottie Jordan’s thoughtful, jazzy 6-string musings, later in the song turning into something Robin Trower woulda done in a song like “Daydream.” But don’t think for a minute that CROSSWIND was just about ballads. Feel the thundering rifferama of “Money Talks.” Dana Hall totally lets loose here, even adding a bit of good ol’ Bon. When she announces “Down on your knees, boy, I’m all over you,” complete with a gleam-in-her-eye chuckle, I’m actually just as afraid as I am turned on. Jordan’s solo in this one is completely over-the-top silly-fucking great! Elsewhere, more epics like the gorgeous 7-minute “End Of The World” and “Remains” spend equal time with butt-smackers like “Too Shy” & “Harder Than Stone.” Everywhere along the way, the album continues to serve several different purposes: 1) It’s an absolute clinic for hard rock vocalists of every age, put on by Dana Hall. This lady did not just know how to sing, she knew how to wrest every single ounce of emotion from her voice & lay it on the stage. 2) It’s a snapshot of a guitarist, in Scottie Jordan, who could’ve been in a very elite league had he continued on the route he’d embarked upon here. 3) This entire band (completed by Rich Barefoot – bass/vocals, Danny Ross – drums, Scott C. – keyboards) knew how to not only put together great songs but deliver them with massive confidence in a raw format. Picture this: A classic. Find it now.
Five Dollars, Ten Stars


J.B. said...

Great review! Haven't heard of this before. Thanks!

raysrealm said...

This is a fantastic album, especially the guitarwork of Scottie Jordan which just scorches and Dana Hall's vocals completely kill me. One of the best raw, gutsy & emotional female vocal performances I've heard.