Gas Money,
22 Dollars
(independent, 2005)

I don't know about you, but musicians who report -- actually, it's all they report -- on their CD's back cover that they're "still playing for drink tickets and 22 dollars" have me pretty much in their pocket, sound unheard. The line, it turns out, is a quote from the disc's opening song, "Drink Tickets," half lament, half celebration, of three Philadelphia-area guys who know how to make blue-collar bar music for small bucks. If this were food, it would be a heaping plate of meat and potatoes that would taste just fine and fill you up.

Three youngish guys, Adam "Ponyboy" Driscoll, Tony Bello and Fred Stucky, are Gas Money, and theirs is countrified three-chord rock 'n' roll with some folk strains (including a couple of traditional songs, "Cannonball Blues" and "Black Jack David," from the Carter Family's repertoire). Otherwise, the songs are mostly originals, mostly written by Stucky, who sings lead and plays a variety of instruments, primarily acoustic and electric guitar, also lap steel, banjo and mandolin. Bello handles percussion duties, and Driscoll is the bass man. On a few cuts they're joined by some friends and local musicians, but the basic -- which is to say barebones -- approach stays unaltered.

None of these guys is exactly a master of his instrument, which is fine by me, because the sound comes out likably loose and ragged, even a little goofy, in some ways reminiscent -- minus the earnest blues and r&b accents -- of the prehistoric Rolling Stones. The lyrics are straightforward, the familiar rooted themes of some of America's most enduring music: drinkin' in a bar, listenin' to country music, nursin' heartaches, feelin' pissed off, ridin' freight trains. Or playin' for drink tickets and 22 dollars. In other words, is there anything here we shouldn't like?

It's enough to make me want to say, boys, the next round's on me, and if you can't make gas money tonight, the ride home's on me, too.

by Jerome Clark
Rambles.NET
14 January 2006



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