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Album Review

Eric "Roscoe" Ambel is a man best known by the company he keeps, having produced the likes of Nils Lofgren, the Bottle Rockets, Blue Mountain, and the Blood Oranges, and played guitar for all sorts of cool folks from Joan Jett to Steve Earle. But Ambel is no mere hired gun, and anyone who wants a crash course in the man's monumental coolness and not inconsiderable talent for the rock thing needs to lend their ears to Knucklehead, which compiles 15 tracks he recorded in a variety of contexts between 1990 and 2004. Ambel is front and center on all these songs, and often heading up some impressive lineups; along with unreleased stuff from the Del Lords and the Yayhoos, Ambel borrows the Bottle Rockets and Steve Earle's road band for a track each, and Warner Hodges (of Jason & the Scorchers), Tony Shanahan (from Patti Smith's group), and Tony Maimone (ex-Pere Ubu, Bob Mould) all pop up in the supporting cast. But even when "Gringoman" is playing all the instruments by his lonesome, the man knows what to do with a guitar. He can write a great song (how come "It'll Only End in Tears" or "Feel So Good" weren't hits?) and pick a great cover (not a lot of folks can tackle Neil Young, Tom Waits, and the Flamin' Groovies and make 'em their own), and his instincts for gutsy, roots-oriented rock & roll are just about faultless. While this isn't quite the best Eric Ambel album, as a musical resumé and a summary of what he does best, Knucklehead does the job just dandy, and offers up a good and greasy groove and plenty of kicks along the way. Fine stuff.


Born: Aurora, IL

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

One of the leading lights of the roots rock movement, Eric "Roscoe" Ambel has been making a name for himself since the late '70s with his fiery guitar work, witty but passionate songwriting, and no-nonsense approach to rock & roll as both a sideman and a producer. Born in Batavia, IL, Ambel's career in music began while he was studying at the University of Wyoming. A fan of straight-ahead rock who wasn't much impressed with disco or corporate rock, Ambel had his ears opened up in 1978 by a Ramones/Dictators...
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Knucklehead, Eric Ambel
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