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Album Review

While plenty of acts in the current nuevo garage universe strive to capture the lean, funky snazz of classic R&B sides, the Detroit Cobras have a different way of going about it than most — instead of trying to write songs that sound like vintage soul tunes, they just dig up vintage soul tunes you (probably) haven't heard of and infuse 'em their own brand of guitar-based swagger (as well as Rachel Nagy's tough-gal vocals). Depending on your point of view, the Detroit Cobras are either a great cover band or an original group who embrace a purist's approach to classic R&B while adding their own perspective to the style. On their third full-length album, Baby, they unfortunately sound more like the former than the latter — there's no denying that this band has a great feel for their material, they've picked a solid set of tunes (and even written one themselves, with the help of Greg Cartwright from Reigning Sound), and Nagy (always the Cobras's greatest asset) is in fine voice. But the bottom line is as good as this stuff it, it sounds a little too clean and neat for its own good, without the full measure of sweat and raunch this music needs to really get over, and while the Cobras know and love their chosen genre, on this set they don't cross the line from playing other folks' music really well into making these songs their own, which is what makes all the difference when taking this approach. And it doesn't bode well that the album's sole original, "Hot Dog (Watch Me Eat)" (written by Nagy, guitarist Mary Restrepo and Greg Cartwright of Reigning Sound, who also contributes guitar and helped produce), is easily the weakest song here. Baby is a good album from a better-than-average group, but it's hard to say if this stuff is really going to matter to anyone a few years down the line, except as a guide to filling out your record collection. [The 2005 Bloodshot edition features bonus tracks.]

Biography

Formed: 1995 in Detroit, MI

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s

One of the earliest groups to emerge from the Detroit garage rock scene, the Detroit Cobras developed a reputation as the Midwest's finest (and most distinctive) cover band — while the bandmembers devoted themselves to performing other people's material rather than recycling established hits, the Detroit Cobras dug deep into the well of vintage R&B and primitive rock & roll sides, building an individual identity out of lost classics from the past which they modified to fit their swaggering...
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Baby, The Detroit Cobras
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