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Dead Rock West

More Love – 2017 (Omnivore)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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CDs by Dead Rock West

Cindy Wasserman and Frank Drennen, the two principals behind the LA-based combo Dead Rock West clearly take their California roots seriously. With the possible exception of their previous album, "It's Everly Time," their unabashed homage to the two Kentucky brothers that effectively helped influence the course of rock and roll, their music brings echoes of a classic Laurel Canyon sound, all crisp harmonies and mostly tender tones. "More Love" ought to inspire just that, given a smooth approach that sounds as if it's just glided in on a Pacific breeze.

While Wasserman and Brennan don't hesitate to inject their own sentiments into the proceedings, it's difficult not to listen to songs like the title track, "Radio Silence" and "Boundless Fearless Love" and not hear at least a hint of the Eagles and other arch Americana prototypes. Yet at the same time, the pair are able to bind their Southern California sensibilities to a decidedly driving sound, suggesting that, like the late Tom Petty, they too are not about to back down. Due credit also goes to Cars' guitarist Elliot Easton, pedal steel player Greg Leisz, X drummer D.J. Bonebrake and Bonebrake's longtime colleague John Doe, the man who sits behind the boards for these proceedings. Indeed, while most of the songs retain that sweet '70s drift, occasional offerings like "All This Time," "Bleeding Blue" and "Nail Gun" strongly suggest a tenacious attitude not unlike that which Doe and his female foil Exene Cervenka pervaded at the helm of X.

Mostly though, Dead Rock West - its handle aside - purveys a mostly soothing set-up. One can practically hear the stillness of the desert in the unhurried lilt of "Singing on the Telephone" and "Tell Me Goodbye." If there's any complaint at all, it's a minor one that accompanies the album's crescendo, a remake of "Bring It On Home To Me." Given that that particular song's been covered so often over the past decades, it's appearance here is rather unnecessary. Better to dwell on a track like "Waiting Patiently," which effectively combines the same yearning and humility in a more compelling manner. If one desires to go back into the vaults, the band's earlier albums are equally as excellent.

Lee Zimmerman is a freelance writer based in Maryville, Tenn. who also his own music web site, Stories Beyond the Music.