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ERIC AMBEL & ROSCOE’S GANG “Loud & Lonesome” 1995: Since leaving the Del-Lords in 1990, New York singer/guitarist Eric “Roscoe” Ambel has made a name for himself as a producer specializing in unpretentious rock with a distinct country edge. Working out of Coyote Studios hard by Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal, Ambel has manned the board (and sometimes played guitar) for records by such rootsy acts as the Bottle Rockets, Blue Mountain, Blood Oranges, Simon and the Bar Sinisters, Go to Blazes, Mojo Nixon and Nils Lofgren.
Recorded while Ambel was still a Del-Lord, Roscoe’s Gang is a casual good-time rock’n’roll session with the Skeletons, Peter Holsapple and other likeminded pals. In the joyful party atmosphere, cover versions of Swamp Dogg, Bob Dylan and Neil Young songs meld easily with originals by Ambel, co-producer Lou Whitney, Holsapple and then-bandmate Scott Kempner. Ambel takes center stage more confidently on Loud & Lonesome, writing with members of a gang that includes Terry Anderson, Kevin Salem, Dan Baird and former Del Fuego Dan Zanes. (Ambel, Anderson and Baird have since coalesced into a loose part-time combo dubbed the Yayhoos.) With his overdriven, wailing guitar and reedy vocals, Roscoe favors the more rock side of the (don’t-call-it) cowpunk equation, sounding like a less-ravaged Neil Young. “Way Outside” and “I’m Not Alone” would not sound out of place on Ragged Glory. – Steven Mirkin, Trouser PressEric Ambel’s first solo album, Roscoe’s Gang, was a clear reflection of the good-time rocker’s side of his personality, but while there was plenty of hard-rockin’ fun in his former band, the Del Lords, they also offered a long, hard look at the realities of living in these United States at a time when the odds looked bad for folks who weren’t rich or well connected. That darker side of American life was on Ambel’s mind again in 1994 when he cut his second solo set, Loud and Lonesome, in which he stripped his band down to a lean, muscular power trio (with Keith Levreault on drums and Andy York on bass) and presented a set of downbeat tunes about love and life gone wrong. As its title suggests, most of Loud and Lonesome doesn’t skimp on the volume, and the hard-charging “Song for the Walls” and “Way Outside” offer enough six-string fireworks to confirm that Ambel had only improved as a player since Roscoe’s Gang. While song titles like “Long Gone Dream,” “One More Moment Gone,” and “The Rain Won’t Stop” say a lot about this album’s downbeat mood, the fiery performances of Ambel and his rhythm section speak of defiance, not surrender, and if circumstances aren’t too happy for the characters in “I’m Not Alone” and “Downtown at Midnight,” “Autumn Rose” stands as a reminder that even a tough life is not without its rewards. And while Roscoe’s Gang was loaded with covers, Loud and Lonesome proved Ambel was growing significantly as a songwriter, and even though he had some top-shelf assistance from the likes of Dan Zanes, Kevin Salem, and Dan Baird, Ambel’s personality shines through on every cut. A tougher and darker effort than one might expect from Ambel, Loud and Lonesome isn’t always an easy listen, but it’s certainly a rewarding one. (Mark Deming, Allmusic)A Brooklyn-based artist known for his blistering guitar work, Eric “Roscoe” Ambel was one of the leading proponents of American roots rock, both as a musician and producer. After serving in an early incarnation of Joan Jett’s Blackhearts, in 1981 Ambel formed the Del-Lords with ex-Dictator Scott Kempner. One of the more successful bands to spring up from the “roots rock revival” of the early ’80s, the Del-Lords were essentially Kempner’s baby, although Ambel did occasionally take over the lead vocal reins. After debuting in 1984 with the LP Frontier Days, the group issued three more albums – 1985’s Johnny Comes Marching Home, 1988’s Based on a True Story, and 1990’s Lovers Who Wander – before Ambel’s exit hastened the group’s breakup.
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