Underground (ear X-tacy)

Tim Krekel and The Groovebillies

By Eddy Morris

What do John Hiatt, Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison, Jimmy Buffett, Bruce Cockburn, and Tim Krekel have in common? The ability to make a grown man cry. Well, if not cry at least touch an emotional nerve or two, and Tim Krekel's latest release, Underground, is a perfect example of this.

You know the listener's drill: hear a good song, buy the CD, realize the rest of the songs are mediocre at best, put the disk back in its case and somehow it never quite makes it back to your CD player again. Underground is not one that will get sent back to gather dust on the CD shelf. This recording is well-written, well-performed and well-recorded, with that elusive audio magic mojo popping up throughout the disc. Audio music magic mojo, by the way, is what this musician/producer calls the ingredient that makes listening to music an otherworldly experience, drawing you in and suspending time. Prolonged exposure results in a pseudo-euphoric state of mind that should be repeated as often as possible. . .especially with Underground.

Underground is a deep record, with something new uncovered with every listen. At first, it's the hits and the hooks that grab your attention. The first five songs are simply great rock songs with big, juicy hooks and sing-along choruses. At first listen, "Everything's Gonna Be Alright" may seem like just another clichéd rock song, but it delivers on its cliché and by the end you really do feel everything's going to be just fine. The tag line of "I've get better things to do than sit here without you" on "Here Without You" makes this a jukebox favorite waiting to happen.

This record is filled with other audio gems. Tracks like "How I've Fallen" and "Here's Looking At You" feature acoustic guitars and sweeping strings softening the listener up for the lyrical punch—a trick often employed by artists but rarely to the effect Krekel pulls off here. The recording also features one of the best organ sounds I've ever heard: meaty and distorted with chord voicings that sound like a demented church organist hammering the keys on a great old pipe organ. The bass and drums roll on in a relentless melee of old school groove, the horns are throaty and punchy, and Tim's guitars are classically pure Fender glory. Peter Rhee's rare talent makes Underground unique with violin fills and mandolin solos where the listener is used to hearing guitar.

Underground is a recording with a long shelf life. It deserves the rare honor of not being forgotten once it's placed on a shelf in my CD library, and pulled out for a spin or two on a regular basis. Of course, it would have to be out of my CD player long enough to make it back to the shelf, and I don't see that happening anytime soon.