Pat Todd first came to prominence with the Lazy Cowgirls in the 70s, but has fronted The Rankoutsiders since 2004. This accompaniment to his ‘Blues, Soul & Rock and Roll’ EP pairs a new Rankoutsiders recording with a cover tune that’s somehow been on Todd’s “to do” list for decades. In doing so, it marries the past and present, neatly drawing a line under a long overdue project whilst simultaneously looking forward.
The self-penned ‘Tell Us All A Story’ works a punky riff played with a skinny tie, early MTV tightness, often sounding like a raucous version of The Look or The Pop working peak Dr. Feelgood. It only takes a couple of bars for the riffs really gain momentum, and once joined by a rollocking harmonica, the core sound really taps into The Rankoutsiders’ retro charm. There’s a lot about this band’s retro sound that’s both tough and lean, and When Todd steps up to the mic, it’s clear he knows this is a great tune. Channelling a peak performance from Molly Hatchet’s Danny Joe Brown with a similarly accented approach delivered at full volume, Todd also conveys a strong presence, and overall, this quickly becomes a brilliant punk ‘n’ roll/Southern rock hybrid that’s not to be missed. With the track augmented with some solid guitar work throughout and loaded with a killer chorus, in under three minutes, this performance really captures an energy that suits the 7” format.
On a cover of Frut’s ‘Prison of Love’, The Rankoutsiders really aren’t shy in tapping into a bar room rock sound. The music quickly whips up a hard edged and very blue collar roots rocker, driven by a hard twang from the lead guitar. As the number progresses, it’s clear that this tried and tested style is very much the selling point as the combination of grubby guitar work and frivolous, slightly clanky piano work has a truly timeless feel. Holding the backline, the drums are of the no-frills variety, but some crashing snares and cymbals contrasting a hard rhythm accentuates a style that’s a little more aggressive than this maybe needs, but it really works. Unfortunately, Todd’s voice is pretty rough. His ageing tones convey a really phlegmy rattle, and as such, it often makes him sound like an unwell John Hiatt. It isn’t enough to spoil the track, but it certainly makes it more of an acquired taste than it deserves to be – or ever should be. Despite the vocals being something of a sticking point, a massive hook and classic rock ‘n’ roll lead guitar break add to some great music, helping to see everything through in a confident manner. Despite not being too different from the original – save for some extra volume and inferior vocal – in approximately three minutes, the band serves up a spit ‘n’ sawdust rocker with a huge hook that might appeal to a broad spectrum of listeners. For those who still cling onto those Slim Dunlap albums with interest, and even, maybe, those who love the retro charm of classic Dave Edmunds and a little Doc Hollywood, it’s worth a cursory ear, even though it isn’t perfect.
‘Tell Us All A Story’ is a strong showcase for the Rankoutsiders. If you’re a fan, that alone might be enough to pick up a copy of this release on your format of choice. It more than shows how the veteran Todd and his assembled musicians still have a lot to give. The cover, on the other hand, never ranks higher than obvious filler. Pat’s devotion to the track – having ruminated the idea of a cover for over forty years – is admirable, but it doesn’t really suit him. Luckily, the band pulls through, but it doesn’t ever reach the intended heights of coolness and does a reasonable amount of damage when there are only two new tracks to enjoy…
Despite one great side and a lot of good intentions, this EP really is for the fans only. Those new to the world of Todd and his Rankoutsiders would be much better off checking out 2013’s ‘14th and Nowhere…’ LP instead.