“Paper House” is the latest release from Myrtle Beach rockers Ten Toes Up. The band plays a style of hard rock that hits squarely with a ’70s-influenced southern rock sound with a heavy funk undercurrent. It is at once familiar to anyone who grew up listening to classic rock radio, but still has a modern twist to keep both old and new listeners interested. Most of the new album keeps this sound as it’s bedrock, with a few songs straying into an almost poppy territory.
All of the musicians are definitely mature players and know their stuff. The vocals are clean and well-produced, with duties going mostly to William (BJ) Craven, who can deliver some hard-edged lyrics with appropriate aggression when called upon. The opening track, “Jesse James”, starts as a slow, grooving southern rocker with some tasty riffs thrown in. BJ also gets in touch with the subject of revenge on “The Reckoning”, which has some clever allegorical lyrics dealing with the loss of one of his favorite guitars. The same conceit is used again, to nicely humorous effect, on the song “Let it Out”, written and sung by bassist Charles Freeman. It’s lyrics are a metaphor for potty-training his son, which might not be obvious, if you aren’t in the know. I can only commend any band for trying to keep the audience thinking while they are being rocked out, and Ten Toes Up are putting in that effort. The double percussion attack from Joshua Gregory and Adam Miller keeps a full sound in that department and helps the funkier songs keep on truckin.
Most of the album deals in a hard rock or southern rock sound that might go over well with fans of the idea of a southern rock band like Drivin ‘n’ Cryin with a more smooth funk-based sound. Classic rock lovers will find plenty to sink their teeth into here. “Paper House” has a wistful feel that shows a different side to the band, and “Sing to You” is very poppy blues rock. There is some nice slide work in “The Real Thing”, although it seems like it ended too quickly for me. If I had one (minor) complaint about this release, it would be that after listening to the monumental closing instrumental, “The Squeeze”, I felt like maybe Ten Toes Up were holding back before then. This song has a great Allman Brothers-like sweep and after getting bedded down by this great piece of musicianship, I feel like some of the previous tracks were just keeping me in the “Friend Zone”. A whole album of songs with that kind of power (and some more of their great lyrics) would be amazing and I’m looking forward to whatever they come out with next.
Recommended if you like: James Gang, Drivin ‘n’ Cryin, Black Country Communion
Sean Knight is a native South Carolinian who has spent his life bouncing back and forth between SC and Texas, playing in bands you probably never heard of in both states and stinking up open-mic nights in the Low Country for many years. He plays, collects, listens to and probably spends too much of his life obsessing over music.