Not everyone knew what to think when Perry Farrell formed Porno for Pyros in the wake of the strange magnificence of Jane's Addiction. And not everyone was ready for Camper Van Beethoven, the darling of college radio in the 1980s, to disband and be reincarnated as Cracker.
Despite bewildered fans and harsh critics dissatisfied with the loss of the original band, Cracker deftly climbed back into the realm of a changing rock scene with its 1992 self-titled debut and several other albums. But it has only just now assumed a steady and expressive identity in the music world with its most recent release, Gentleman's Blues.
A rich addition to its searching efforts of past years, Gentleman's Blues fits nicely on the CD rack of both old and new listeners of Cracker.
Although you won't find a compelling single like "Low" of Kerosene Hat, you will find a smorgasbord of romping rock, country and blues.
Cracker has always been known for good road-trip rock songs like "What the World Needs Now," the song that made Cracker's debut worth a listen.
This time around, the song most likely to accompany you on your next road trek is "The Good Life."
This song kicks off the album with memories of crazy times and running from the consequences.
Vocalist David Lowery claims Gentleman's Blues sums up the many experiences of being in a band, and the opener really reflects the hectic and vivid lifestyle of rock 'n' roll, Cracker-style: "My face in magazines, a lesbian James Dean, I got all I ever wanted..."
Lowery seems to begin the whole thing with a touch of self-deprecative charm and cynicism toward an industry that has long since written him off in more misunderstood ways than he cares to mention.
Gentleman's Blues is accompanied by an array of artists who enhance many of the tracks, including Mike Campbell of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, ex-Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson and singer Kristin Asbury of September 67.
Asbury adds a nice diva element to the hip-shaker "Seven Days," and Campbell shows up in the haunting "James River" playing a cello. The contributions of these artists add sugar and spice to Cracker's sound in all the right places and enhances its own developing sound as a band.
Although some songs like "Star" are a little lackluster, Gentleman's Blues has a couple of good tracks nestled between the others, like the honest, open "Hold of Myself," sung by the other lyrical half of Cracker, guitarist Johnny Hickman.
"Been Around The World" also shines with its simple frankness in its discussion of getting back into life and touring after ending a relationship, but still missing the person: "I want a stranger with your face ... Oh, how I wish I was in your bed tonight to taste the salt upon your neck."
Gentleman's Blues is worth a listen not only because of the bluesy elements and the hybrid of country and rock but also because of its fresh honesty and openness.
It is apparent that Lowery and the rest of the band have reached a settled point of contentment after a couple of wild and woolly years as a band reaching fame - a journey with quite a few stories collected along the rough-and-tumble way.