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CD REVIEW: Crankshaft and the Gear Grinders - What You Gonna' Do
By Cyrus Rhodes - 03/06/2013 - 11:40 PM EST

Artist: Crankshaft and the Gear Grinders
Album: What You Gonna' Do
Label: Independent Artist
Genre: Jazz/Swing
Sounds Like: Stray Cats, Stevie Ray, Brian Setzer Orchestra, Asbury Jukes, Johnny Winter, Golden Earing.
Technical Grade: 8/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 8/10
Commercial Value: 710
Overall Talent Level: 9/10
Songwriting Skills: 10/10
Performance Skill: 8/10
Best Songs: Dancin’ in the Dirt. Boomtown, Earthquake Shake
Weakness: 1 odd sounding track, Dated Sound
CD Review: Crankshaft has been pounding the pavement since 2008, developing his own "pork neck" style along the way. A sound heavily rooted in rock 'n' roll, blues, country, swing, and surf that "could not have been imagined prior to the early punk scene," as described by Dig In Magazine. Rock solid original lyrics, a dedicated fan base, and his 21st century twist on the American roots is pushing him to the top of the crowded Minneapolis music scene in a hurry. It's becoming clear to many that Crankshaft is "one of the best and most interesting roots, rock and blues acts playing around town these days." - Cities 97. Born into this world from gas station cassette tape collecting semi-truck drivers, Alex “Crankshaft” Larson was introduced to a wide variety of music as a pup. In 1996 he traded a combination oil/wood stove to his uncle for his first electric guitar and amp. Since then he's been involved in many projects, including a band he started with his brother in 2001 called The Mojo Spleens. In April 2008, while self-employed as a contractor, he started practicing as a one-man band and was playing shows two months later. Larson self-produced and released three albums during the next two years. In 2010, backed with the business skills he developed running a construction company and the strong DIY ethics he learned from his connection to the underground punk scene, Crankshaft decided to hang up his hammer for good so he could focus on writing and performing music. Since then he's been earning a living playing, as both a traditional one-man band and as the leader of his trio, Crankshaft and the Gear Grinders.

The CD kicks things off with “When the Sun Goes Down” a perfect intro piece that serves up a slamming R&B groove that dishes out jumping guitar, red hot vocal intensity against a driving rock rhythm and compelling vocal melody from Larson. Track 2 “Boomtown” dishes out rock steady ditty with impressive rhythm guitar against infectious vocal melody and a soulful grand slam chorus that has no comparisons. Track 3 keeps things moving in the right direction with “Dancin’ in the Dirt” a guitar driven melody from Larson that peaks and valleys its way through to emotional fruition with its hot to the touch solo guitar and infectious groove. This CD makes a solid first impression dishing out 3 rock solid tracks in a row, and really never backs down after that. As this CD slowly unfolds I can hear many different musical elements reminiscent of such classic acts like Stray Cats, Stevie Ray, Brian Setzer Orchestra, Asbury Jukes, Johnny Winter, and just a dash of Golden Earing. The music itself is an amazing blend of no holds barred Rhythm and Blues, classic Saloon Jazz-Rock with a dash of Classic Rock and 50’s style Rock n’ Roll. The musicianship of Larson is equally as impressive. The rhythm groove (Bass/Drums) is as thick as a brick. Top to bottom he is a DIY master. You will also notice lush layers of instrumentation layered everywhere. Besides the 4 piece standard you will notice impressive Horn section, sizzling guitar licks, Saloon style Piano, painted against lush harmonies layered everywhere. The most impressive thing about this CD is the impressive vocal persona and sizzling guitar skills of Mr. Larson. His musical personality are to die for and his vocal delivery is spot on for the genre. From smooth as silk “Trail of Tears” to grooving “Kingpin” to slamming “I Wanna Play” to jumping “Waiting for Me” to rocking “Earthquake Shake” and Don’t Leave” to psychedelic “Let Me Love you” this CD has something for just about everyone. The CD ends with Track 12: "Barkin’ up the Wrong Tree” the perfect finale statement for a CD of this caliber.

Track 10 ‘Don’t Leave” sounds extremely awkward to me with respect to the overall drum sound and overall mixing style. It sticks out from the rest of the songs in a bad way. The CD laso give off a vintage 40's feel. Perhpas it's by retro design but it's not the most modern soudning record I've ever heard.

The latest 12 track CD from Crankshaft and the Gear Grinders is a real barnburner of a release. It's a rock solid and highly entertaining CD from start to finish. The songwriting – all consistent musical experiences, each one possessing a unique personality, flair, and signature grooves. Note for note, song for song there isn’t really a weak piece on this entire catalogue. The writing and playing abilities of Crankshaft Larson is rock solid. It’s strength – the raw song for song intensity that keeps coming at you. No doubt these guys are a total riot to check out live around Minnesota. The music is nitty-gritty, rock solid, heavy and consistent. Like a heavy weight fighter this CD packs a powerful punch and goes the full 12 rounds with no sign of letting up.

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