Queen O’ Spades (Last Beat)
by Scott Hefflon
Former Toadies singer Vaden Todd Lewis is one of my favorite swaggering rock singers. Similar to vintage Robert Plant (minus the caricature the name now implies and the hundreds of glam rock knock-offs), this Texan wailer has a range, vibrato, and non-cockstar presense that just plain IS rock’n’roll to me. After waiting six years for the Toadies’ vastly-underrated second album, Hell Below/Stars Above, to be released by Interscope, VTL and Taz (ex-Reverend Horton Heat skinbasher, currently in Izzy Stradlin’s band) took matters into their own hands and recorded this Burden Brothers EP. Available thru Last Beat and the band’s site, there are different versions, and each comes with a tee shirt, playing cards, stickers, and such.
Queen o’ Spades consists of two originals, a cover, and alternate version of all three for a teasing total of six tracks. The title track is a blues rock strut with a mighty bass butt-shake, and some “old black man” vocals contrasted by VLT’s soulful yowl. The opener, “Walk Away,” is a decent-enough Toadies rocker, but nothing special. Version one includes G’N’Rers Izzy and Duff as well as Pearl Jam’s Matt Cameron, version two is a nice little country swing, complete with that pedal steel guitar thing those country folks seem to like so much. But the real gems here, I hate to say, are the two versions of the good Reverend’s “400 Bucks.” A great example of how to take a few simple chords and make a memorable riff. Killer breakdown. Cool to hear it with Todd’s vocals, Taz’s thundering drums, and some killer shredding, damn! And nice half-volume “beat box” intro. We want more!