MACKS CREEK BAND out of Missouri are a working band still ripping it up decades after this rare private press LP was unleashed. This is primarily a live band, the scorching dual guitar action and propulsive rhythms captured here leave zero doubt they can jam your mind right out of your body at a show. Laid down at Parallax Recording Studios in Willow Springs, Missouri in 1980, the LP contains all original material loaded with riverboats, reefer, catfish, nasty ladies dressed to kill, characters like Diamond Jim and Bertha Bryan… southern rock potent enough to up the ante for the Allmans and other southern rockers they shared the stage with back in the day. They primarily worked the St. Louis / Southern Illinois area and are a reminder that some regional bands who made their bread and butter killing it live with cover versions of classic southern rock made the smart move to do all original material when it came time to make their own record. Don’t confuse them with the lighter country rock band out of Chicago who use the exact same name, or of course, that other Max Creek out of Connecticut who worked the Grateful Dead angle… this is a deep fried dose of Americana with wide open dual guitar spaces where smokin’ beer soaked roadhouses or lazy day fishin’ holes both can set you free!
Terry Midkiff and Ron Roskowske simply kill it with their guitar moves, every track loaded with screaming leads flying all over the fretboard, confidence and precision. No mindless wanking, their vivid power is focused and deadly, especially when they pull together into classic southern rock twin guitar harmonic interplay. Lead singer Paul Cockrum is the primary writer, his hard edged style blends with simultaneously tight but loose background vocals filled with feeling. Tom Denman shines on keyboards, delicious gushy flow organ action effortlessly integrated into the rhythm section… Steve Hughes on bass and Bob Klaeger on drums. The guitars here dominate but are all the more effective riding the solid but on the move foundation these dudes provide. Proof there was way more talent out there than room on the radio back when the ’70s southern rock sound was going global. Macks Creek Band bring it to life on this LP in a way only people who live it for real can. Fate may have kept them out of your ears until now, but it’s time to get down!
RIO flies right out of the gate with dual guitars making a mission statement about what is to come… cage free rhythmic flow, gushing organ and breezy vocal harmonies match the theme of running away on a rainy day, going down to Rio, sandy beaches, long arm of the law too short to mess up your escape into sunny stress-free living. Classic leave it all behind message delivered with universal pop hit-friendly appeal. The vividly resonant guitars are already spiraling about like magic and you are just getting started.
BERTHA BRYAN enters with a hint of moody progressive rock in the arrangement and sombre CSNY inflected harmonies before shifting gears into a tougher groove. Spitfire licks smoke it up, the tempo accelerates, all elements intensify in an arc towards a rolling climax where the guitars absolutely rip flesh. The message here from grandma Bertha Bryan is “boy you can be anything you want to be”, positive words but delivered repeatedly with ever increasing angst as the track unfolds… like the singer is struggling to turn that advice into reality.
CATFISHIN’ is the first of two songs that lighten up the vibe with a dose of backwoods humor and an intentionally cartoonish bonehead vocal delivery. Plenty of searing slide guitar loops around as the singer waxes unpoetic “just between me and you, my fishin’ hole can’t be beat, I’m goin’ down to the catfish pond, I’m gonna catch me something to eat”. Total Allmans styling dual guitar recurring hooks and acapella section near the end edge this towards early ’70s AM radio territory, I can hear the Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show or Randy Newman Top 40 versions both in my head.
CAN’T MAKE IT ALONE is no sob story plea, it’s a hard rock mover with catchy somewhat countrified vocals riding on top, opens with dead on universal classic rock guitar intro hook section before heading south with a gnarly lead leading to the vocal. The singer doesn’t sound too broken up about his girl disappearing, by verse two he’s already found the cure is “… summer nights, rolls of money and ballroom fights, nasty ladies dressed to kill, cheap whiskey from my daddy’s still”. The guitars get really nuts at the end before the classic intro returns to frame the song solid gold style.
ON THE MISSOURI opens with the line “I was born in Kansas City in 1843” so here’s your sentimental ballad to the old south complete with a trip down the river where “life was easy on the Robert E. Lee”. Sensitive piano with a hint of saloon weaves through and the guitars sing together. Gambling, the Ace of Spades and Diamond Jim make appearances. There’s a bit of a tension between maudlin and sincere that could sink the steamboat for some. Sincere wins… like some odd faded photograph nostalgic illusion of the past minus all the bad stuff always does. .
MOVE TO THE COUNTRY opens with a rhythm similar to “Eyes Of The World” by the Dead before settling into a groove more like a waterfall in the sky flowing in slow motion, topped with soaring visceral melodic guitar action that affirms the message of the song brilliantly. It’s a friendly invite to turn on to the easy living going down in the band’s world… “think of my house as your home, stay as long as you like”. Any band today that could say that without irony?
EL DANZANTE (The Dancer) opens with a spaghetti western hard prog rock adjacent guitar drama reminiscent of the atmosphere in the classic song “Ghost Riders In The Sky”. Killer use of dual guitar action, an instrumental that is totally southern but has a cinematic reach beyond.
SMILIN’ AGAIN is the other humor move on the LP and it is an intentionally hilarious bonehead rocker on the timeless topic of running out of weed… or in this case “reefer”, a properly archaic word for it when in these guys hands. Speaking of hands, the singer urgently details the need to get his on some smoke in the first verse and has a joyous “born again Bolivian grin” on his face in verse two after he scores…ranting that “you can smoke your brains out and blow your face out” as the slide guitar mimics that vibe.
TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT…”please make up your mind, stop wasting my time” means bigtime frustration on the closing track, fiery brutal guitar and menacing organ in an angry bluesy zone unlike the rest of the LP. I am who I am… deal with it, you’re messing my head up… this leaves the listener in a place where the answer is to go circular and cue side one up again. You’ll see what I mean clearly if you do it!