Reviewed by Christopher Gray, Fri., June 18, 2004
GradyY.U. So Shady?
Pulp blues: the eternal sound of tarpaper juke joints, county-line roadhouses, and smoke-fogged biker bars. Its blare is resurrected yet again in Austin by Canadian transplants Gordie Johnson (aka "Grady") and Big Ben Richardson, with the "Whip" himself, Chris Layton, beating time. Y.U. So Shady? engages original 12-bar patron Mephistopheles in a 50-minute back-alley dice game, but it's not Johnson's soul up for grabs, just the rights to the 19-year-old prize of "Hammer in My Hand." Ol' Grady is quite the lover, according to the racially indifferent "Black or White," but sometimes even his formidable prowess isn't enough to keep his woman from absconding with a purse-full of his money ("Groundhog Day"). Must be time for another slow-cooked solo, equal parts Texas heat and Mississippi mud, with a wily, wicked tone fuzzier than four days of five o'clock shadow. While Grady is thus occupied, Richardson and Layton engage in an album-long game of chicken: heads down, veins pulsing, nostrils flaring. First one to blink loads out all the gear; through the gallop of "Woman Got My Devil" and plod of "Tired All the Time," neither does. Not even on the valedictory romp of "Ride Like Hell." The tank is full, the 19-year-old is in the back seat (for now), and empty-handed Satan just came up snake eyes. In music as in life, it pays to be shady.