By Eleni P. Austin
If you are wanting to time-travel back to the late 60s/early 70s and don’t have enough dough for Sherman and Mr. Peabody’s way-back machine, just take a listen to the band 68-75. You will instantly be transported back to the era of bell-bottoms, free love and down-home Southern Rock & Roll.
The nucleus of 68-75 is singer Suzanne Sledge and guitarist Andrew Cylar. The Atlanta, Georgia natives first connected at the beginning of the 21st century in the band Sanctified. When that band came apart, the duo laid low for most of the decade, until 2011 when they hooked up with bassist Steve McPeeks and drummer Matt Kotheimer.
As their name suggests, 68-75 takes their inspiration from that halcyon time when the sounds of Swinging London collided with Stax-Volt. Mad dogs, Englishmen and gritty Soul shouters acted as co-conspirators. The result was a cross-cultural, rainbow coalition that defied categorization. The music was heady brew of Blues, Rock, Country and Soul. Best described in one word, badass.
68-75 has made their reputation as an incendiary live act. In 2012 they released a couple of EPs, Stay The Ride is their first full-length album. It opens with the one-two punch “Kicking Down The Stalls” and “Deal With The Devil.”
“Kicking…” is anchored by a walloping tribal tattoo, rumbling bass runs and slashing power chords. Sledge’s mien is defiant as she abandons an onerous situation… “Whatever you think you got on me won’t stick…”
Sledge barely clears her throat and the band launches into “Deal With The Devil.” Sunburst riff-age collides with a stop-start rhythm. Cylar’s stinging solo on the instrumental break kicks the track into overdrive.
Three songs, “Detroit,” “Send My Body Home” and “NSC” benefit from the added musical muscle of Marty Kearns on Hammond organ and Jeff Baker on blues harp. The first line of the bluesy ballad resists equivocation…”Fucked up in Detroit, head in my hands.”
Cylar’s sinewy chords snake through subtle organ fills and a steady backbeat, as Sledge cycles between “seduction or extinction” in the bankrupt Motor City.
The full-tilt boogie of “Send My Body Home” is, to quote James Taylor, “a churning urn of burning funk.” Kotheimer rides the hi-hat, McPeeks anchors the low end and Cylar unspools a gritty solo. Baker’s moody harp runs connect with Cylar’s dusty licks, creating a swampy pas de deux. Sledge’s urgent vocals crest over the top.
Day-glo organ notes wash over staccato riffs and a chunky backbeat. The steadfast melody belies Sledge’s desperation …. “Curse the darkness, curse the light/I ain’t got no more fight in me.
The best song here is the title track. Spiky power chords shake, rattle and roll over an insistent groove. The stutter-step rhythm ricochets through the melody. Sledge’s tone is seductive and salacious, assuring a toxic lover “You ain’t got to bring me to my knees, to get me to believe that you are up to no good.” The tune shudders to a stop, right at the point of climax.
Other stand out tracks include “Camel’s Back” and “It’s Only Tuesday.” The former is propelled by a locomotive backbeat and blistering riffs. Sledge is arch and dismissive, as Cylar unleashes a corrosive solo.
The latter blends Sticky Finger-sweet licks and a ramshackle melody. Bad times feel epidemic…. “It’s only Tuesday, and I’m flat busted.” But Sledge perseveres on this Stonesy groover.
The album closes with “Dogtooth.” Sledge’s canine metaphor is in full effect..“You set me off, now I’m dying to retrieve my dignity.” Cylar’s guitar pyrotechnics are jagged and angular. (Less Lynyrd Skynryd and and more Buzzcocks or Gang Of Four). He pinballs between the tandem time-keeping of McPeeks and Kotheimer.
68-75 is the real deal. If Steve Marriott (Small Faces, Humble Pie) and Bonnie Bramlett (Delaney & Bonnie) had a love child, it would be Suzanne Sledge. She is an earthy soul-shouter, equal parts tough and tender.
Andrew Cylar’s style celebrates the legacy of gunslingers like Duane Allman and Stevie Stevie Ray Vaughn. But there are also traces of lesser known influences, like Eric Gale and Steve Cropper. Steve McPeeks and Matt Kotheimer provide ballast for Sledge’s blue-eyed soul and Cylar’s fleet fretwork.
Stay On The Ride was recorded in three studios over four days by Dan Dixon. The album is already receiving constant radio airplay in Europe and Brazil. Now it’s time for America to take notice.