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CD Review: Lara Hope & the Champtones 


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Few genres of popular music are as durable as the indefatigable hiccup of rockabilly. The bastard child of rhythm and blues and rough-hewn country music, rockabilly has survived the fickle whims of fashion and thrived for close to 60 years, stretching from luminaries like Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, and Carl Perkins to the Cramps and beyond. Carrying on this proud lineage are Saugerties-based quartet Lara Hope & the Champtones. All the musical hallmarks of great rockabilly are present on their debut EP, Heartbeat : the stuttering beat, reverbed, twangy guitar, clipped drums, and the aggressive, sultry vocals of a badass front woman.

Hope confidently leads her band through six songs touching on classic rockabilly themes like drinking, dancing, and cars while keeping alive the tradition of the music. This connection is made explicit on a cover of Wanda Jackson’s classic “Fujiyama Mama.”

Guitar gunslinger Jeff Kadlic provides some wonderful, serrated edges with a fistful of blistering solos, particularly on “’53 Boogie” and “Big Block Betty.” The rock-solid rhythm section of Josef Pelletier on doghouse bass and Johnny Watson on drums really keeps the train a-rollin’. Hope, who also fronts local punk band Tiger Piss, plays it cool, mostly eschewing real-gone screams for more subtly dynamic stylings, which are best exemplified on the title track. This is music that calls out for a whiskey on the rocks and a dance floor, and not necessarily in that order.

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