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Album Review

The cover art for Swinging Steaks' fifth album, Kicksnarehat, proudly proclaims their hometown: "Swinging Steaks Boston, MA." But listeners who haven't seen the cover could easily be excused for mistakenly thinking that this is Austin, not Boston. There is a distinct country rock shading to the album, replete with a rootsy power twang reminiscent of the Jayhawks and Uncle Tupelo and flashes of Cracker-esque goofiness. But the Steaks are even more consistent than some of their influences in their ability to build sharp, memorable hooks on solid roots rock foundations. The opening "Freeman," a highly charged anthem centered around muscular electric guitar and hammond organ power chords, would sound right at home alongside many of the biggest AOR hits of the 80s and 90s. It has the feel of a sure-fire single, but the band's best work comes later on the record. Songs like "Heart Will Take You Home" and "Win Again" and the irresistibly quirky "Bugs" demonstrate that the four accomplished musicians are just as comfortable in mellower settings, balancing the amp-busting thrust of their rock tunes with acoustic guitars, mandolin, and banjo. The band concludes the record with a foot-stomping Chuck Berry-esque cover of Bob Seger's "Get out of Denver" that gives pianist Jim Gambino a chance to show off his chops. It's a perfect ending for an enormously spirited album that exhibits impressive polish and skill without diminishing its infectious good ole boy charm.


Formed: 1990

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Paul Kochanski (vocals, bass) and Jamie Walker (vocals, guitar) first played together in the early '80s for a Boston-based band named the Drive. Local acclaim and a first-place finish on MTV's The Basement Tapes didn't prevent the band from breaking up in 1989. The Swinging Steaks were formed soon after, when Kochanski and Walker recruited Tim Giovanniello (vocals, guitar) and Jim Gambino (vocals, piano, organ); they later picked up the Del Fuegos' drummer, Joe Donnelly, when that band folded. The...
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KickSnareHat, Swinging Steaks
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