Philadelphia four-piece Go to Blazes specializes in roadhouse rock’n’roll — whiskey-kissed shuffles and sour blues and Stones-influenced stomps that have a way of making everyday sorrows seem heroic. Known drinking buddies of Eric “Roscoe” Ambel (producer of their recent recordings), Go to Blazes belongs to that loose confederation of roots rockers determined to preserve the rough edges of the music, the country twangs and beer-guzzling stomps. That they haven’t been heard much beyond the Northeastern corridor can only be blamed on geography: since forming in Washington DC in 1987, Go to Blazes has followed such like-minded bands as the Bottle Rockets up and down the club circuit between New England and Virginia.
The quartet’s two early albums, riddled with country knockoffs, are notable mainly for the musicianship of guitarist Tom Heyman, an adroit post-blues improviser influenced by Danny Gatton, Muddy Waters and Keith Richards. Beginning in 1992, Go to Blazes appeared on a series of singles from New York’s Diesel Only label — their contributions to the romance-of-the-highways canon include “Why I Drink” and “Messed Up Again.”
The Ambel-produced Any Time…Anywhere captures Go to Blazes in peak form. The rhythm section is assured, guitarist Ted Warren’s vocals are no longer self-conscious, and the songs, particularly the blistering “Between the Eyes” and a tribute to Sam Peckinpah (“Bloody Sam”), exhibit more narrative depth. The first thousand copies of the album came with a terrific bonus EP, Live at the Mercury Lounge; among its delights are a delirious cover of X’s “Because I Do.”
After years of hard rocking, the band finally unplugged in 1995 with …And Other Crimes, for the German Glitterhouse label. This live-in-the-studio date is filled with smarter-than-bar-band covers, each one given a half-reverent, half-sneering spin. And if rollicking, slide-guitar-tinged treatments of Gene Clark’s “Out on the Side” or Kinky Friedman’s “Sold American” aren’t twisted enough, check the downwardly mobile originals “Got It Made” and “Waste of Time” to hear just how closely the band’s sense of rebellion mirrors that of anti-heroes Hank Williams Jr. and Lee Hazlewood.
The squalling guitar power of “Talk About Me” is only the most amplified demonstration of GTB’s unreconstructed electric core on Waiting Around for the Crash, again produced by Ambel. The dozen new numbers (written separately by Heyman and Warren, with one from guest guitarist Bruce Langfeld) hit all of the band’s diverse stylistic bases, from Skynyrdized Southern rock (“Independence Day”), Stonesiness (“Nervous Type”) and roots-punk (“What You’ve Made”) to rustic folk (“Typhoid Mary”) and twangy country blues (“Lost as Me”). Also included is a remake of Warren’s “Why I Drink,” originally served up on a Diesel Only 45.