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Album Review

The title Bar Band Americanus might throw off some folks who haven't heard of Charlie Pickett before happening upon this compilation (and given Pickett's criminally low profile, there are plenty of them out there). The title might suggest a band playing straight-ahead good-time rock & roll in the manner of NRBQ or the Skeletons, but Pickett's music is made of significantly stronger and darker stuff; there's as much Keith Richards and Johnny Thunders as Chuck Berry in Pickett's songs, a druggy and blues-addled undercurrent lurks within even his most upbeat songs, and in Pickett's world when love goes wrong, it hits the wall at 110 mph. If there's a more bitter kiss-off to a former lover than "Liked It a Lot," one can't be sure who would have the courage to listen to it, and Pickett's cover of the Flamin' Groovies' classic "Slow Death" is infused with the grim knowledge of someone who has witnessed the junkie life up close, not from a distance (it's the sort of tale Pickett told just as well in his own "Get Off on Your Porch"). Miami, Florida, wasn't a nurturing environment for a band mixing roots rock, blues, and proto punk with maximum sneer, and though Pickett toured like a dog in heat behind the three indie-label albums he released between 1982 and 1988, he never earned more than a tiny cult following outside his hometown, despite the endorsement of Peter Buck, Maureen Tucker, and Jim Duckworth, all of whom played on Pickett's albums. Bloodshot Records prexy Rob Miller is a loyal Charlie Pickett fan, and has given music followers another chance to find out what they've been missing with Bar Band Americanus, which features material from all three albums as well as some rare EP and single tracks, live cuts, and even three unreleased numbers. Although plenty of fine songs and some powerful rough-and-ready rock (Pickett's frequent guitar foil Johnny Salton deserves a cult following of his own) are heard here, this is music that knows the good times are almost never simple, and the crash can teach you as much as the ride. This is the kind of stuff that often keeps an artist off the upper reaches of the charts, but it also makes for music that lasts, and 20 years after Charlie Pickett cut his last album, Bar Band Americanus demonstrates that the dark heart of his music is still beating loud and strong.


Genre: Blues

Years Active: '80s, '90s

To Charlie Pickett, a guitar-playing native of Dania, FL, punk rock meant old Rolling Stones and mid-'60s garage rock more than the Ramones and Sex Pistols, and that devotion to a hyped-up roots rock sound was what made Charlie Pickett such a fine performer. With his backing band the Eggs (later called the MC3), Pickett was an anomaly in the era of punk aggression and new wave marketability, playing covers by British old-wavers Johnny Kidd and the Pirates and Manfred Mann when the prevailing cry...
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