Two Tons of Steel,
(Palo Duro, 2005)

Two Tons of Steel,
Two Ton Tuesday Live!
From Gruene Hall

(Palo Duro, 2006)

As the DVD that accompanies the live package informs us, Two Tons of Steel started out as the Dead Crickets, a nod to the late fellow Texan Buddy Holly's legendary band. That ended in 1996, when surviving Cricket Jerry Allison asked the band please not to do that. So the former Dead Crickets renamed themselves after a restored '56 Cadillac in a band member's possession.

From a pure rockabilly outfit, Two Tons has evolved into ... well, it hasn't strayed all that far from its roots. Call its sound honkabilly, a jumpy, partyin' countrified rock 'n' roll in thrall to Holly, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Billy Lee Riley, Charlie Feathers and Buck Owens. Two Ton Tuesday Live! captures the band in its natural environment, a South Texas dancehall, where every Tuesday, as the enjoyable DVD (mostly footage of one gig) documents, Two Tons plays to a large and appreciative (and appropriately lubricated) party crowd. Even its more famous label-mate Dale Watson, a honkytonk man who can't seem to stop, shows up (unbilled and unnoted in the credits) on the dance floor. He's the guy with the pompadour and tattoos, boppin' with the woman with the big hair and tattoos.

If you grew up with rock 'n' roll, you'll take to this, no questions asked. Nothing fancy or experimental is going on here, just the good old stuff served up Texas style. Two Tons, made up mostly of guys who look to be in their mid-30s to mid-40s, hails from San Antonio. Kevin Geil plays acoustic rhythm guitar, sings lead vocals and writes most of the originals, which are all good ("Vegas," on the other hand, is terrific). There's Dennis Fallon on electric lead, plus Ric Ramirez on acoustic bass, Chris Dodds on drums and Denny Mathis, the senior member, on steel. They've been together for years, and it shows. They couldn't make a sound like this -- both tight and loose -- if they hadn't been.

"Havana Moon" is a Geil original, not the Berry song. But "Secret Agent Man" is indeed the P.F. Sloan/Steve Barri number that anybody who remembers Johnny Rivers will recall with at least a tinge of guilt mixed with the pleasure. John Brim's "Ice Cream Man" is the Chicago blues chestnut creatively reworked. Likewise, the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated" (and really, who doesn't?) is hilariously transformed into pure Holly in Two Tons' steel hands. If none of this does anything for you, check your pulse.

by Jerome Clark
11 November 2006

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