Ed Tang And The Chops: Americana Gone Wild

Grainy, fast-moving images of dusty faith healers spitting brimstone sanctification fill the speakers as Ed Tang and his fellow bandmates gallop in on their brand new eponymous release, Ed Tang And The Chops.

Ed Tang has always impressed me with his candid ability to deliver without shrouded melodrama or compositional copycat dullness. I’ve read some other articles from guys considered to be scene wizards and I am always interested that most miss what’s right in front of their nose, specifically primary rock and roll deliverance from a band that cares more about the focus of real ability than they do about their social standing within the local community of superstars.

There are no fancy tricks up the sleeve when it comes to Ed Tang And The Chops’ Americana-steeped tones, and they welcome all in for a listen on this latest, and all too short collection of unique local music.

The new EP features five energetic songs that bear the mark of thoughtful presentation and inventive songwriting strategy. Wrapped in the solid and savory production insight of Paul Ritchie, continuity on this disc is fluent and smooth. Ritchie, of course, hails from his own close-knit congregation of harmonious followers through his writing and production utilized in Parlor Mob (Columbia and Roadrunner Records) and he has years of experience both in front of and behind the studio console.

Ritchie joins longtime Shoreworld familiar Rob Blake (Black Clouds), whom Tang brought in to handle recording and engineering chores on all five tunes. Blake is a high complimentary match and stamps his trademarked blend of clarity and power all over the EP.

With an A-list team of musicians, producers and artists, Ed Tang And The Chops open the door to their very first project as a band and I eagerly popped it in the ole’ CD player for a detailed listen.

Ed and the boys swoop in on wings of hand-clapping salvation and insurgent idolatry acceptance on “When Death Should Find Us.” Decaying, analog Jimmy Swaggart/Jim Baker recordings crackle and lament our “End Of Days” sermon as the band surges in, kicking four on the floor bass and drums underneath Brucey harmonica wails and open chord electric interventions. Tang’s gruff and tumbling vocal unrolls the age old “it is what it is” message as Geoffrey Myers tears out some savvy Rivers Cuomo-styled lead work. Contrast to bands such as Gaslight Anthem or The Replacements instantly come to mind when Tang and his crew steer this punk-infested rocker through their tobacco-hazed, beer-drinking back street avenue of solid gold.

“Willy Loman” blends that dark Tunnel Of Love gloom with the former hopes of faded grandeur. Once again, Ed uses the simple virtue of a few chords and a highly creative insight to come up with a very unique story. “Willy Loman” is a character straight out of Arthur Miller’s Death Of A Salesman and Ed tells the tale of a man living on the very brink. Hard luck lyrics ride high on mega-chugged electrics as the keyboard work of Vic Fraternale keeps the arrangement on the right path. Ed Tang And The Chops are champions of the melodic hook and they pass their platinum-bound catch from Tang’s vocal to Fraternale’s synths and Myers’ guitar riff in a round robin continuation of theme and repetitive emphasis.

“Brothers In The Wayback” sounds off via honky tonk acoustics and folk rock harmonica howls. Musical spirits of The Pogues, Social Distortion and Black 47 saunter into the plot here, mingling anthem-like power salutes to a rowdy legacy of barroom blood, sweat and tears. Ed Tang’s vocal modulations tear open the choruses, prompting what is sure to become a massive, show stopping sing-along rally in the near future. Myers once again shines bright in the break, tossing out some of the sharpest chicken pickin’ this side of Nashville’s Johnny Hiland. As the band dissolves into the back of the piece, pianos shimmer under Tang’s dynamic guitar strum and welcoming message of brotherly return.

“A Lapsed Catholic” kicks off hard before settling and swirling down into the arrangement with an almost Mark Knopfler feel to it. The verse structure is light, confessional and airy, allowing guitars to sparkle and tangle echoing overtones and tube-fueled blitzkriegs that build into crests of melodic distortion. The rhythm work of Nick Bock (bass) and Brad Harrison (drums) allows this song to stray outside of the presumed lines while retaining that concise “in the pocket” feel. Choruses break out gracefully, setting up the entrance for Myers, who tactfully comes through to color the bridge with simple, melodious lead work. Kudos goes to guest vocalist Alyssa Kern.

“Leaving Of Liverpool” is the tip of the hat to the traveling troubadour. Tang waves goodbyes to all via acoustic guitar and voice before signaling the band to join him. Once again, this is all Myers’ tune, and it highlights some great playing from both guitarists. Verse highlights include the traditional sound of late, great Johnny Cash guitarist Luther Perkins, who made the legendary “Boom Chicka Boom” rhythmic style of playing a household sound. Myers does a bang-up job of that here and I couldn’t help but jump into the celebratory feeling as I listened to Myers turn on a dime, going from plate reverb rhythm chunks to passels of truck stop pedal steel-like bends. Truth be told, the entire band is having fun at this point, and the inclusion of guest vocalist D-Dubs gets notice as we hoist parting mugs and glasses of celebratory sauce.

Normally when I get a project like this, there’s a full-length arriving shortly and I suspect (or at least I hope) that’s the case for Ed Tang And The Chops. This disc was fun and well executed when it comes to composition, performance and production. I just wanted much more of it.

Ed Tang And The Chops are a great live band and I’ve come to know that anything I hear from their studio sessions can, and will, be replicated live. If you’re looking for a musical compendium to match your Saturday night revelry, this is a band you’ll want to see as soon as possible.

For more information on Ed Tang And The Chops, head over to edtangmusic.com.