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20 Miles – Life Doesn’t Rhyme

Shift of gears in 2003, a bit more pop and straight rock laced into the blues. Aiming for the mainstream? Shame if it’s true.

Easy Lingo brings Tom Petty to mind with a great groove via the Stones. Gypsy Babe is a slow gospel organ blues, Unquiet Glam is pure Stones rawk, Barely Breathing (For Hank Williams) is straight rock road story.

Clover rocks along… with cowbell! Ship Is Sinking Fast’s piano-driven slow blues core is brilliant, this is a highlight track for sure. Drown The Whole World is a weird effects thing, the title track is a sweet and steady jam. Everybody Knows My Name rocks majestically, and Unfulfilled is gentle drifting music. Tearing Apart plods along with absolute menace.

Still a great sound, but a long cry from their earlier stuff. Better or worse? You decide!

20 Miles – Keep It Coming

20 Miles is back in 2002 with more blues ruckus to shake your rump. Well, Well, Well is damn funky, while Mend Your Heart, Rhythm Band and Beautiful Dream could be Stones. Silver String is built to be a single. Fix Fences has a smooth roadhouse sound to it, and Late At Night is a sweet fat jam.

Feel Right rocks, Street & Lights is a run-away train, My Baby Fell Down The Well is pure gold blues, and Like A Rock is slow sweet bliss. Phaedo happily melds blues, country and a bit jazz, and I Believe has a Tom Waits clunk.

BLUES! Get you some of this beauty.

20 Miles – I’m A Lucky Guy

Goddamn Judah Bauer in 1998! YEAH! On Fat Possum! A marriage made in messy blues heaven.

East St. Louis is an absolute hit song, then it’s the Stones stomp of All I Want, the Cobain-like vocal delivery of Sympathize. Let the acoustic guitars wash over you in Pure As Gold, tap your feet happily with Oh Ruby, feel the blade covered in velvet of Johnson’s Blues. The Buddy Holly jangle of Like A Fool, and more! So much more. Get this. Get it now.

Can I even begin to tell you how I love this record?

20 Miles / Doo Rag (split single)

Subtitle: Sinful Tunes And Spirituals

I don’t remember in which shop I snagged this little gem, but I know it was in Toronto… not on a Mike & Aaron trip, but on another time I was in town. At the time I thought it was rare (I never see it the shops, on my travels), but looking at the Discogs now, a copy can be had for about $10 CDN (+ shipping). On this Australian release single, each band gets two tracks.

First up, 20 Miles. Judah Bauer! Both of their tracks come from the I’m A Lucky Guy LP…

Johnson’s Blues is an hypnotic blues stomper to drift you along… East St. Louis is a pure blues rock hit record single if I ever heard one. This is one of my favourite tracks of theirs.

Next is Doo Rag. Good ol’ Bob Log III (and Thermos Malling too!). A minimal bit of searching the internets did not indicate to me that these tracks came from any other official release of theirs. If I’m wrong about that, let me know in the comments!

Confidential Booty is a madman bluesy stomp that clanks and clunks… Elbow Crack is blues at breakneck speed, interspersed with an absolutely massive bass drum booming. What a joyous noise! There’s also an odd, electro grind (is that a term? If so, is it even correct, here?) section, from the middle to end. Whew.

This single is a lovely slice of awesome.


20 Miles – Twenty Miles

Judah fuckin’ Bauer, baby, yeah! Look, I love me some Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Anything else this guy wants to do, I will line up and buy it first day.

This début side project record is perfect proof as to why. Through the hairy Intro and the gut-stomp slide workout of Junkyard, with lines like “What could I do, I can’t kill you all…?” Oh man, you already know you’re in blues heaven. Well, the next song (which is another pure rip-snorter) is called Place Called Hell, so call it heaven if you like. I sure do.

She Don’t Know picks it’s way through a bluesy instrumental chunk of beauty, and Piece Of Clay (a Mississippi Fred McDowell tune) is a primitive, shuffling shout from the very pits. My Back Door doubles the pace and brings the best traditions of all those early 60s garage rock bands, as filtered through the Delta, of course. I’m Not A Man brings the fife into play (hence the Othar Turner in the album’s subtitle, one could presume). But around that thin whistling sound builds this rough blues track with staccato snares… so great.

Come Right In is a danceable, joyous clatter. The guitars hold it together while managing to sound messily haphazard. It shouldn’t work but it does! My Little Baby is an hypnotic riff that morphs and grows while staying roughly between the ditches of the song’s intent. Pure blues, I can hear John Lee Hooker doing this. And lastly, Mississippi Bolero is another glorious instrumental, and brings back the fife again, here and there. But the guitar work! Actually, this whole album is incredible for guitar parts. Damn.

The subtitle on this record stands as “R.L. Boyce Othar Turner Fife & Drum Spam.” Well OK, then. Hell, I even remember where I bought this, years ago. Toronto it was, on Queen West near Yonge, at Kops Records. I remember picking it out of the bin and clutching it to my chest, making sure no one else could get it before I did…

Shout-out to Donovan for all his contributions on this record, and to Fat Possum for once again totally kicking my ass.

Wherever it pleases you to go on your search for this, get it now. It is raw and glorious.

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