The Railroad Ave. Bullies is built around Austin, Texas guitarist Nick Diaz’s outstanding talents but the other four musicians joining him for “Alligator Shoes” and its b-side “She Ready” are more than capable of holding their own. The band’s instrumental prowess is beyond question after giving tracks even a single listen and the lack of any vocals won’t pose any meaningful difficulty for listeners. These are pyrotechnic yet substantive demonstrations of tight ensemble playing with a physical edge lacking in most modern music. Despite the inherent throwback nature of these two tracks, “Alligator Shoes” and “She Ready” burst out of the speakers with rambunctious energy that spurs you to move and revel in the sound.
It is a challenge to find a single weak spot in either track. Diaz shines in both, but his lead guitar for “Alligator Shoes” shows off why he is one of the most highly regarded blues players active today. He has a well-rounded style capable of adding color through both solid accompaniment and searing lead breaks. There’s a fun side to his playing on the track as well; it takes quite a musician to communicate their sense of humor via their instrument, but Diaz makes such moments sound effortless. His guitar work radiates confidence from the first note to last.
“She Ready” takes a slightly different approach. The Railroad Ave. Bullies ramp up the pace a little compared to the first song and songwriter/bassist Chris Lujan’s melodic Fender lines don’t simply follow Diaz but, instead, weave melodic counterpoints of their own. Hammond organ player Chris Hazelton provides fiery counterpoint as well in both songs, but he ratchets up the heat during “She Ready” and his strut fueled playing is one of the unquestionable highlights for both tracks.
“She Ready” has a far funkier heart than “Alligator Shoes” and Michael Reed’s combination of muscular and musical drumming bears a lot of responsibility for that quality. He makes an excellent rhythm section partner for Lujan’s bass and they play together like a duo with years of near telepathic familiarity. Joe Baer Magnant’s rhythm guitar work is important to the final results as well – he gives Diaz the necessary supportive platform for his playing to take flight on both tracks and helps beef up the band’s already impressive sound.
Lujan manned the boards for both tracks and his production gives the songs a raw-boned immediate sound that grabs listeners from the first. It’s easy to imagine that The Railroad Ave. Bullies pack an even greater wallop in live performance – the combination of this music and a late night in a packed sweaty club atmosphere seems like an ideal setting to experience the band revving at full power. The recordings are sufficient for now. “Alligator Shoes” and “She Ready”, released by Lugnut Brand Records, are among the best examples of modern blues you’ll hear from anyone and their appeal doesn’t dim with repeated listens. Catch on with this band today if you love the blues because this is a group with talent to burn and, more importantly, staying power.