The Gospel Truth
(Golden Robot Records)
3 1/2 out of 5 stars
No one could accuse rock and roll guitarist Gilby Clarke of selling out.
He’s best known for relatively short stints as a hired hand in Guns N’ Roses and the MC5. But even after those gigs ended, Clarke charged through four tough, tight solo albums, all for different mostly indie imprints, that cemented his blues-rocking bona fides, even if they didn’t make him a star. His most recent was Swag (2002), which makes this new release, arriving nearly two decades later, a comeback of sorts.
You’d never know there was almost 20 years separating them though. That’s because The Gospel Truth is yet another solid, unapologetically roots-rocking set that could have been recorded anytime in the intervening period or even before. His backing band includes noted session drummers Kenny Aronoff and Jane’s Addiction’s Stephen Perkins, who provide powerful kicks for Clarke to crank out his gutsy tunes on his trusty Les Paul. Little has changed in Clarke’s overall approach; his music still combines the sleazier aspects of Aerosmith and Cheap Trick, the less glam traits of the New York Dolls and a major nod to the original Alice Cooper band, minus the references to dead babies.
You don’t have to hear songs titled “Rusted N Busted” or “Rock n’ Roll is Getting Louder” to know they wallow in a grimy, garage rawk with catchy choruses meant to be sung by audiences who share Clarke’s love of the grungy guitar grinding music he ladles out like he’s just thought of it. Now pushing 60, Clarke enthusiastically revs up the six-strings on eleven zingers, none over four minutes, that show he’s a “Wise Old Timer,” as one track is titled, who knows his way around arranging tunes with sharp hooks and playing that’s both classy and slimy. Just try to get through one spin of “Violation” and not shout out the one word chorus as Clarke launches into a bluesy solo that would make Keith Richards proud.
Previous albums mixed gems with some filler. But with the amount to time he had to compose better material, exemplified by the opening title cut with wailing gospel backing singers bringing soul and the titular churchy feel to the throbbing rocker, this displays quality songwriting with no duff moments throughout its short yet potent 35 minutes.
No fuss, no muss scruffy guitar rock made for pounding out in shabby clubs and even some cowbell. What’s not to like?