The Dealer

Raging Slab

Tee Pee Records, 2001

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Once upon a time, I remember being very excited about Raging Slab. I used to play their song "Don't Dog Me" while I was a disc jockey in college, and I honestly thought these guys had a bright future ahead of them.

Instead, their saga read almost like a bad soap opera. The band lost their major label deal, and continued to fight for attention through a few releases on smaller labels. But success seemed to remain elusive for the group... and I quickly forgot about them.

Greg Strzempka and crew still haven't made it back to the majors... and if their latest disc my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 The Dealer is any sign of things to come, then let's hope they didn't buy non-refundable tickets to stardom, 'cause this isn't their best work.

The band - guitarist/vocalist Strzempka, guitarist/vocalist Elyse Steinman, bassist Alec Morton and drumner Rob Cournoyer - has recently picked up the tag of being a "stoner rock" band. I don't know if this is an accurate description, as the band does try to capture the feel of roots rock. What I do know is that it probably helps to be stoned to listen to this, as portions of this disc border on unlistenable when you're listening to it naturally.

It's not that I think Raging Slab aren't trying on The Dealer; it's just that the music comes off as being very laissez-faire from the start, and it leaves the band in a deep hole with almost no way to climb out of it. Tracks like "Here Lies," "Real Good Time," "Sir Lord Ford / When Electricity Came To Arkansas"and "Too Bad" just come off as being flatter than the tires on a car in a redneck's front yard. Even when the band starts to show some promise, as on "Chasin The Dragon" or "That Ain't What I Meant," the potential delivery power of these songs is quashed by so many flat performances.

So what could have saved this album? The thing that leaps out at me is that Raging Slab seemed as if they had lost the direction they got started in when they were a solid Roots Rock band. Is this genre pretty full? Yes... but the good material always tends to stand out over the average or the dreck, and at one point in their career, Raging Slab was on the top of the pond. Where they lost their direction, I don't know, but this disc suggests that they still are searching for the right path to walk musically. Sadly, this one isn't it.

And it's not that The Dealer is totally without merit. There is enough on this disc to suggest that there is still hope for this band. I just question whether enough people will be left at the end of the day to see them rediscover everything which made them a potentially great band in the first place.

Rating: C-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Tee Pee Records, and is used for informational purposes only.