Dead Rock West, Honey and Salt (Populuxe, 2007)

Dead Rock West are a California-based quintet that specialize in straightforward, no-frills rock. Honey and Salt is their debut. The band's music revolves around the interplay between Frank Lee Drennen (vocals, guitars, main songwriter) and Cindy Wasserman (vocals). The lineup is completed by Phil Parlapiano (keyboards and mandolin), David J. Carpenter (bass), and Bryan Head (drums), although the session credits include several different lead guitarists as well.

The tone for the album is set by the solid opening track and single "Highway One," which is both a song about trying to reach an old lover and an ode to "driving way too fast" on the Pacific Coast Highway. Drennen and Wasserman take turns singing lead on the songs, and harmonize on the choruses. The tempos range from relaxed country to fast punk, with plenty of stops in between. Generally the louder songs made the biggest impression with me, especially "Pretty Disaster" and "Telephone." Like "Highway One," these are very suitable tunes to crank up while hitting the open highway. The more aggressive numbers might remind some listeners of X, a California band from the eighties with similarly dueling male and female vocalists. Dead Rock West acknowledges the influence by doing a souped up cover of "Burning House of Love."

All in all, Honey and Salt is an encouraging start for Dead Rock West, with a bunch of decent songs supporting a handful of very good ones. People looking for a good fix of basic guitar rock will like this album.

Overall grade: B+

reviewed by Scott

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