Photographer: Joel Faurote.
When half of a band's original lineup packs up and leaves, it's a pretty big deal, at least to the group and their fans. Left Lane Cruiser were populated by just two guys for their first ten years -- Frederick "Joe" Evans IV on guitar and vocals, and Brenn Beck on drums -- and after Beck quit the group in 2014, Alive Naturalsound decided to mark the end of an era with Beck in Black, a collection of material from the duo's years with Beck behind the drums. Left Lane Cruiser are very good at what they do, but they have only so many moves in their repertoire, and Beck in Black covers them all -- heavy-hitting blues-rock with lots of gnarly slide guitar, Brontosaurus stomp rhythms, and lyrics about women, whiskey, weed, and dangerous good times of all stripes. As far as the honoree is concerned, Beck in Black demonstrates Beck's skills behind the kit, from the frantic trash-can percussion of "Zombie Blocked" and jittery drive of "Crackalacka" to the bluesy groove of "The Pusher" and the near-funky skip of "Chevrolet." "The Pusher" is one of six unreleased tracks appearing on this album, which on one hand makes it more than just another LLC "best-of" album, but on the other means that serious fans will probably want it even though chances are good they already own eight of the numbers appearing here. The gruff but wiry guitar work and howling vocals from Evans are Left Lane Cruiser's sonic hallmarks, and they're available in abundance here, wailing in fourth gear no matter what the theme or tempo of the song. Beck in Black may be a farewell to the group's first drummer, but it's also an effective summary of Left Lane Cruiser's recorded work in their first decade. If you want an introduction to this band's raw, big-city blues, this will do you just fine. [A shorter ten-song version of Beck in Black was released on a color vinyl EP for Record Store Day 2016, two and a half months before the general CD release.] ~ Mark Deming