Eric “Roscoe” Ambel is accomplished guitarist (Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Steve Earle) and go-to “roots rock” producer (Bottle Rockets, Nils Lofgren, Ryan Adams, and many more). In 2012, he added “erstwhile tavern owner” to his CV. Worse, when Ambel’s Lakeside Lounge fell victim to gentrification, New York City lost what many swore was the best jukebox in the five boroughs.
Fittingly, Ambel’s first solo disc in 12 years evokes a trusty jukebox.
Another comparison is CCR’s Cosmo’s Factory. Ambel and compadres (including producer Jimbo Mathus) effortlessly ramble tamble through a variety of styles, sprinkling in choice covers along the way. Even the sleeve photos recall Creedence’s magnum opus.
Regarding those covers, Ambel opens with the honky-tonkish “Here Comes My Love” by his Del-Lords bandmate Scott Kempner (former Dictators), and tackles the Motown chestnut “Money” and Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings’ “Look At Miss Ohio.”
But Ambel is more than accomplished interpreter. Originals include sludgefest “Hey Mr. DJ,” while “Have Mercy” evokes Billy Gibbons, and “Buyback Blues,” a lament soaked in Ambel’s barkeep experiences, might be the best “ditch-era” Neil Young song that Young never wrote.
Limited to 500 signed and numbered vinyl copies, Lakeside is a boutiquey affair, to be sure, but an enjoyable slab from an unsung hero of American rock.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s October ’16 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.