Left Lane Cruiser: Blues from Dirty Fort

Left Lane Cruiser — Brenn Beck (left) and Freddy Evans — are helping to put Fort Wayne on the cultural map. Photo by Joel Faurote.

There's a campaign at work to change Fort Wayne's image from

a sleepy, bland bedroom community into what locals are calling "Dirty Fort."

Porn superstar Bree Olsen, who brought some notice to the city with frequent

Howard Stern appearances, took a step up in the public eye when she appeared on

20/20 as one of Charlie Sheen's

"goddesses." And now we have the Fort Wayne-based duo Left Lane Cruiser, whose

third national release on the Alive Naturalsound label, Junkyard

Speedball, is building quite the buzz in

the indie and blues scenes. The band kicks off a nationwide tour at the Sun

King Brewery this Thursday.

Junkyard Speedball, which summons

the spirits of Charlie Patton, the dead members of Lynyrd Skynyd and Fred

"Sonic" Smith, demonstrates that there's still plenty of life left in the

drummer-guitar format pioneered by Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper all those years

ago. Charging out the gate with a raging stomper, "Lost My Mind," the album

runs the gamut between country-blues laments ("Hip-Hop"), hard rocking house

party staples ("Weed Vodka") and psychedelic mind blowers ("Pig Farm").

Guitarist Freddy J. Evans IV, whose heavy guitar sound reverberates all over

the place, relies on a steady thump supplied throughout the proceedings by

drummer Brenn "Sausage Paw" Beck. Reverend James Leg from the Black Diamond

Heavies adds keyboard on five tracks.

I caught up with Evans and Beck last week as they prepared for the tour.

NUVO: Who knew Fort Wayne could produce a band like yours? And how is it that

one America's biggest porn stars (Bree Olsen) comes from the Fort? Is Fort

Wayne really that cool?

Beck: It definitely can be, if you don't judge us by bands like The Ready Set.

We got a hell of music scene up here. I'd say pound for pound, we got more good

bands than most cities double our size. With venues like our infamous Brass

Rail, and more and more local bands touring the US, Fort Wayne is becoming the

town to play. Plus we are trying to name our new government building [after]

Harry Baals. That really speaks for itself.

Evans: Fort Wayne is the dirty fortress. Bree has been to

some of our shows. She told me she loves us. She's a huge fan. Our music scene

stomps a hole in your ass. The bands up here work hard. No matter what kind of

sound they're laying down, bands up here have a knack for sounding original. We

all represent for the dirty fortress.

NUVO: What were early gigs like?

Beck: Heavy and loud. Fort Wayne has always been big on metal, so we came up

playing a lot of shows with metal bands. That's probably half the reason a so

much heavier influence has leaked into our brand of blues.

Evans: Very supportive

audiences. Our people know how to enjoy live music, they get drunk. We sound

incredible to drunk people.

NUVO: How did you guys acquire your taste for the blues? And when did you

decide to mix in MC5 and the Ashton Brothers into the mix? I also pick up a

little classic rock in there too, am I right?

Beck: R.L. Burnside had a lot to do with that. It didn't take long for me to

get tired of listening to the same ol' 12-bar shuffle over and over and over

again, before I started looking for something a little more grittier. I have

always been big into Clutch and a lot of other straight ahead rock, so when I

stumbled onto R.L., it was like finding the promised land. It proved that the

blues doesn't have to be tired regurgitated bullshit. From there we started

putting our own custom spin on it.

Evans: My dad raised me on Muddy Waters and the Rolling Stones among other

blues and classic rock. I grew up near Detroit, so I've been a fan of that

sound for my whole life. Ted Nugent, Bob Seger, Alice Cooper, MC5, Iggy Pop;

they all mean a lot to me. I personally have always worshipped the genre

of rock known as ZZ/DC. The sounds of AC/DC and ZZ Top dominate the

soundtrack of my life. When I heard the Fat Possum sound — R.L. Burnside

and Jr. Kimbrough — I felt complete.

NUVO: Are you hip to any other Hoosier rockers? Rev Peyton and others?

Beck: Oh yeah, we've played with the Rev. a few times. There's a lot of good

stuff coming out of Indiana right now. Great local one man band named

Poopdeflex up our way, Snakedrive down in Bloomington, Jookabox down in your

neck of the woods. I also really enjoy We Are Hex outta Indy as well.

NUVO: Cracker Barrel and Denny's, pork n' beans, weed vodka. Food is a good

topic for you guys, no?

Evans: Food is sacred, the first drug of our life. As for the titles of

our songs, we try to use titles that remind us of the song so we can remember

what the song is from the title. We like to keep it simple.

NUVO: What was it like to make this record in Detroit?

Beck: Man, Jim Diamond at Ghetto Recorders is about as good as it gets. He set

up shop in an old chicken processing plant. Concrete floor and walls, no heat,

vintage analog gear, in the heart of a dying city; it don't get much more real

than that. Jim has been doing this for a long time. He also plays bass for a

badass band named The Dirtbombs, so he automatically knows what a couple of

dirty dudes like Joe and I want our album to sound like. Watching Jim lay bass

tracks while manning his vintage gear is like watching a mad scientist perfect

his recipe.

Hear: "Giving Tree" from Junkyard Speedball


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