Holdin’ the Bag
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Since the veteran Seattle-by-way-of-Tucson punk rocking Supersuckers never do things in a small way, they have been—with apologies to Donny and Marie– a lot country and a lot rock and roll for decades. For their first album since 2013’s roaring Get the Hell, the Eddie Spaghetti led three piece dons their C&W hats for this typically in your face offering that shows why they have been one of Americana’s most uncompromising acts for a quarter century. Like Motorhead, whose Lemmy is namechecked in the updated lyrics to Hank Williams Jr.’s “All My Rowdy Friends (Have Settled Down),” the irrepressible Supersuckers have maintained a large enough cult following to keep them a working entity looking for that hit unlikely to arrive.
But if success doesn’t seem probable for this raggedy bunch, it also hasn’t stopped them from criss-crossing the country for over two decades while releasing a steady stream of studio albums, EPs (famously with Steve Earle), live discs and singles not to mention backing up Willie Nelson on the Tonight Show. Founder Spaghetti—the only original member—isn’t even letting stage-3 throat cancer get him down as the band’s fans have already raised close to $60,000 towards his medical fund.
After this long in the trenches, no one would blame the Supersuckers for coasting on an album or two. But that clearly is not this band’s MO because the strutting, gutsy twang of Holdin’ the Bag is one of their finest yet. They hit honky tonkers such as “I Do What I Can (To Get By)” and ballads like “I Can’t Cry” (with similarly no BS guest vocalist Lydia Loveless) like the scrappy punkers they are. And when they hit fifth gear on rockers “Let’s Bounce” and the Jerry Lee Lewis styled raucous put down “Jibber Jabber” (with the immortal lyrics “you’re like a public rest room woman/so hard to keep clean”), it’s clear they remain as feisty as when they were knocking out unhinged concert albums such as 2002’s immortal Must’ve Been Live.
Guitarist Marty Chandler’s leads shift from sweet to scorching. They are underpinned by bassist/vocalist/founder Spaghetti who doesn’t sing words so much as spit them out with the confidence of a guy who knows how to deliver the goods and has the catalog to prove it. The combination ranges from explosive to comparatively subtle but regardless of the song, is always riveting.
Both respectful to rustic tradition while energizing and expanding it, the Supersuckers semi-humorously declare themselves “the greatest rock and roll band in the world.” And, even in their less forceful country guise as here, few would dispute that claim.