The Detroit Cobras: Steve Shaw, Maribel Restrepo (vocals, guitar); Damian Lang (vocals, drums); Rachel Nagy (vocals); Jeff Meier (bass).
The Detroit Cobras manage a pretty rare feat with their debut LP by transcending classic R&B material by sticking not to the original sound or slavishly recreating arrangements and stylistic trappings of the genre, but by finding the essence of the rough-and-tumble spirit of the original streetwise tunes the Cobras tackle on Mink Rat. That they've chosen as their material obscure R&B nuggets from such legendary labels as Fortune Records and tunes from the glory days of regional hits and AM radio (with the left-field cover of the Oblivians' "Bad Man" here titled "Bad Girl") only aids and abets their efforts to make this material uniquely their own. Led by rhythm guitarist Steve Shaw, the Cobras are so tight, instrumentally, that they're loose. The sound, in modern terms, is dirty garage rock, but emboldened by a sense of rhythm that eludes most trash rock and punk-leaning outfits. But, really, what the Detroit Cobras peddle is rock & roll, just as raw and funky as it was originally intended. Shaw may lead the instrumental charge, but it's vocalist Rachel Nagy that steals the show. With a limber, husky voice that recalls Peggy Lee gone to seed and chain-smoking while standing on a Detroit street corner, Nagy is soulful without resorting to histrionics. Instead, she infuses her treatment of the material with an alluring bad-girl bravado and a feral sultriness. Always one step away from falling apart, the Detroit Cobras manage to hang together long enough to keep the house party vibe rolling from track to track. A fitting tribute to the spirit of rock& roll and a reason to go dig through the crates to hear the originals. ~ Chris Handyside