In the world of modern garage rock, Greg Cartwright seems to be a figure on a par with Mick Collins: multiple bands of fluid personnel; labyrinthine career history; general fiery habit of cranking it out and moving on.
Currently, Cartwright is fronting the Reigning Sound, after stints with The Oblivians and The Compulsive Gamblers. “Love And Curses” is his first studio set in a while as far as I can tell, and it’s the sort of record that deserves an audience way beyond the often rather closed garage scene. Cartwright and his current line-up from Asheville recorded much of “Love And Curses” in Ardent, and you can see a certain Memphis lineage in a bunch of the songs, hear echoes of Alex Chilton and Tav Falco now and again.
A stronger lead, though, is the way much of the album, heavy as it is on the organ thanks to newish recruit Dave Amels, draws on the sound and energy of “Blonde On Blonde”. Dylan’s influence on artists often ends up as a sort of nebulously awkward rethink of American roots music. But the Reigning Sound brilliantly tap into that broiling, indignant band sound he found in the studio and, even more so, on the road with the Hawks in ’66.
I guess what we’re talking about here, really, is that thin, wild mercury sound, just as much to the fore in wounded ballads like “Something To Hold Onto” and “Love Won’t Leave You A Song” as it is on pointed ramalams like “Broken Things”. There’s an affinity, too, to another artist who drew on this side of Dylan, Elvis Costello: check out the thumping, wheezing “Debris”, which would’ve fitted pretty nicely onto “Trust”, or “The Bells”, where the organ is joined by some cascading, Steve Nieve-ish piano. Worth noting, too, that there’s a hearty catch to Cartwright’s voice on this one, especially, which recalls Springsteen a little.
There’s room for one or two heavier garage workouts, too, like “Stick Up For Me”, but even here, on this faintly revolutionary fanfare for the common man, there’s a soulful grit, an understanding that a garage band can expand their remit a little without sacrificing any of their elemental power and thrust.