This will be apparent from the moment you realise that, while Kramer sounds like Bruce Springsteen‘s little sister let loose on tequila, she’s swinging a guitar in one hand and a bottle in the other while putting into practice everything she’s learned about music by channelling the White Stripes‘ Icky Thump.
Latin beats and mariachi strings, garage lo-fi one minute but produced to precision the next, The Rustic, Contemporary Songs of Anna Kramer & The Lost Cause does pretty much what it says on the tin, taking all the good bits from the last 60 years of rawk’n’roll and country music, mixing them up and spitting them out the other end.
The tracks are short and sharp, never likely to outstay their welcome on the radio nor reduce themselves to over-long guitar solos … or so you think until Plastic Beads betrays you with an axe solo that reminds you just how strongly the shadow of Jimmy Page looms over the rock pantheon. And reminds you. And reminds you. Stop it girl, and move on to the next song.
The feedback fest at the end of When You See Him is far more acceptable though (assuming you haven’t had enough of Sonic Youth in your life yet. If you have, skip straight on) especially for the way it morphs directly into the June Carter-esque Man In Love. Playful lyrics and matching tunes dance cheerily across half of the album; the other half picks up the pieces from the comedown.
Kramer does bring a bassist (Shannon Mulvaney) and a drummer (Adam Renshaw) along for the ride, but the music presented here is resolutely hers, dominated by her voice and guitar attack, rough and ready and full of the kind of energy that’s been baked under a cornfield sun and let loose in small town garage bars. In fact, she and The Lost Cause sound just like a band from Georgia should. Mulvaney and Renshaw even have the sideburns to match.
By the time male vocals join the mix, on the appropriately named final track The Wake, Anna and her pals really should have won you over. They have mercilessly begged, borrowed and stolen musical tricks from the pantheon of the country/rock/blues gods before ending here, with a tongue-in-cheek faux country lament dripping with the requisite references to liquor, religious experience and the misery of life.
“There’s a light that will always be on”, duet the blues-soaked troubadours as they sing us out. The light at the end of the tunnel is, we suspect, the light of a jukebox in a deserted bar, with bourbon on the shelf and dark booths where one girl and her guitar can hide in the shadows and plot music domination. Go along and buy her a drink, eh?