Blindly driving an old scrapheap with a stuck accelerator, fueled by potent trailer-park hootch and heading straight for hell, Nine Pound Hammer roared out of Lexington, Kentucky, belching mother-humping bourbon-soaked rock’n’roll and a sardonic swig of Southern culture that makes Jason and the Scorchers sound like a Sunday afternoon tea society and the Cramps like fussy stylists. Between the relentless buttkicking Blaine Cartwright gives his guitar and the manic hyperbole of Scott Luallen’s careening vocals (not to mention the pair’s bugeyed songwriting), Nine Pound Hammer jabs the raw force of Jerry Lee Lewis and the pure electricity of punk into a fever blister that gushes forth with septic fun.
The thinly produced The Mud, the Blood, and the Beers (which is included, in its entirety, on the Smokin’ Taters! CD) is a Ramonesy debut containing such statements of cultural purpose as “Redneck Romance,” “Gear Head,” “Drive-In” and “Barefoot County.” If the Hammer makes like a four-headed Mojo Nixon here, it bears noting that the band beat him to the Eagles-murdering punch by two years with “Bye Bye, Glen Frey.”
The second album (with new bassist Matt Bartholomy joining drummer Rob Hulsman in the rhythm section) smokes out of the speakers with redoubled purpose and fluid, road-tested rockabilly punk. When not messing around with classics like “Folsom Prison Blues” or acknowledging the miscegenated existence of “Surfabilly,” the relentless group thrashes around its own time and place, admitting to certain family secrets (“Feelin’ Kinda Froggy”), personal weaknesses (“Turned Traitor for a Piece of Tail”), episodes of drunk driving (“Don’t Get No” — the rest of the thought is “better than this”) and bouts of employment (“Headbangin’ Stock-Boy”). Kinda takes your breath away, don’t it?
Louder, faster and fully tanked up on wickedly clever admiration for life’s losers, Nine Pound Hammer rips into Hayseed Timebomb like the proverbial one-eyed cat heading for the seafood store during a three-day catnip bender. The album’s trash-filled swamp of beer, No-Doz, junk food, sloppy sex and rifles blurs the us-them culture line in a hyped-up wail of droll debauchery. Changing the other back wheel this time (adding drummer Bill Waldron to the lineup), the Hammer spews such colorful plumes as the queasy culinary litany of “Run Fat Boy Run,” the go-nowhere hero of “Shotgun in a Chevy,” the autobiographical “Stranded Outside Tater Knob,” the departing “Outta the Way, Pigfuckers” and, best of all, the title song’s violent nutjob. “He’s headin’ into town, riding on a derailed train/The devil’s playing skeeball deep inside his brain/People in this town will never forget his name.” Nine Pound Hammer’s derailed train just keeps gathering momentum as it rolls on into the night.
Nine Pound Hammer broke up in the mid-’90s; Cartwright went on to form Hell’s Half Acre, which mutated, as these things will, into the far more notorious Nashville Pussy. After the release of a 1994 set as Live at the Vera, NPN reunited for some shows in 2000 and 2001.