The Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies - The Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies
Published on Monday, 11 January 2010 19:00
Written by sonofabelch
|Artist||The Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies|
|Album/CD Title||The Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies|
|By It Now On|
The Great Southern Revival That Almost Was Pt 2
This is the second part in a series that will take a look back to a time when bands hailing from the Southern US created a swell of soul and boogie in the late 1980's and into the mid 1990's. Related in sound to various degrees to Southern Rock bands of a generation before them, this new movement didn't so much copy the sound of classic southern rock, but more emulated the spirit and celebration of music created in a region ripe with melodic harmony and a history of soulful sounds. Although largely ignored by most of the normal outlets in many cases, there were moments of light in the darkness giving some of these bands a brief spot in the sun. If you blinked at the time, you probably missed some of these bands. Here's a chance to go back and make amends.
The Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies were easily one of the best bands of the era and their debut album remains a shining example of what a band can do when they go into a studio with the intentions of dropping all pretense of bullshit and laying out what it is that makes a band unique. Drawing from years of love for southern rock, blues, and boogie, the band opened up the flood gates and recorded some of the finest in taste and soul in one blowout of a debut record.
Hailing from Nashville, Tennessee, the band formed in the early 1990's and worked the club circuit and in 1993 they were signed to Atlantic Records, ready to place their mark on the scene. Into the studio they went and the result was one of the greatest pieces of musical culture ever to be released in what I would call the "modern era" of Southern Rock. Once again, the craziness and popularity of the grunge scene oozing out of the Seattle area made it near impossible for most bands of this mold to make a dent in the sales of albums, yet the band still managed to do fairly well after it's release, seeing a couple songs break into the charts.
The band consisted of singer Mike Farris, guitarists Rick White and Bob Watkins, Bassist Steve Burgess, and drummer Terry Thomas. Together, the band created the perfect blend of blues, boogie, classic rock, soul, and old school jams and it all was captured beautifully on their first release, "The Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies". You can look forever and still come up short if you want everything this album has to offer in one recording, especially when taken in the context of bands that were out at the time.
I always hesitate to use the label "throwback band" because it's almost always used in a bad way, but when attempting to describe a band like this, the label is applied with the deepest respect I can give. The band encompasses everything I loved about the classic Southern groups that made their mark a half of a generation before them. Songs like "Shakin the Blues" (which actually made a dent on the Billboard charts) provide a nice punch for radio play while others display the soul of the band laid out for you to groove to. My personal favorite on the album, "This is the Time" is a perfect blend of rhythm and soul and takes you on a personal journey which allows your mind to drift back to a time when your heart finally found the right words to express what was inside.
Another gem on the album, "Ride the Tide" also has the same quality of anthem-like groove building which snatches you up from the start and doesn't let you off the bus until the song is over, leaving you wondering just how the hell a band like this was ever buried in the first place. Other songs like "Slow Burn", "Leave Your Pride At the Front Door", and "Sister Mercy" also continue the brilliance and harmony of the project which makes it hard to find any blemishes throughout the album.
Once "The Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies" was released, the band toured extensively to support it but in reality, they were fighting against a tide of changing times in the music scene. Seemingly buried in the mess, they returned to the studio and released their second album "Magnolia" in 1996 but by this time, two things were already evident: the band was great, and the band was doomed by circumstances beyond their control, most notably because the recording industry in general had moved beyond bands with a classical Southern rock feel and were now fully attached to the grunge scene, funneling all of their cash and marketing in that direction. Sadly, the band's time had passed in terms of having a chance at exposure, yet they carried on for a number of years releasing other quality albums which, if it wasn't for the decline in musical tastes in the industry, would have been more appreciated than they were.
The band, of course, broke apart after years together, but did come back to release another album in 2004 titled "Ten Miles High
All said and done, it's hard to find a band that captures everything that is great about Southern rock. The Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies pulled it off wonderfully, however. They had the groove and it was easy to tell they were real. You can't fake this kind of thing because eventually what you really are comes out. Time after time this band consistently released the best of the best when it came to "revival" boogie and blues. Along with bands like The Black Crowes and Little Caesar (both of which I will review later in this series), they carried on the standard and were only stopped due to the inability of an entire industry to recognize between what is real and what is not. Too many bands are willing to change who they are and what makes them great at the drop of a dollar, while bands like the Screamin Cheetah Wheelies get buried in the process.
As long as the bottom line remains what sells instead of what is honest, bands like this will continue to suffer the fate of many before it. I can only hope that the internet and the changing dynamics of how recorded music is distributed provides a better outlet for bands that refuse to swing from the dick of out of touch executives who are clinging to power. You can sense a change coming over the horizon already, and I'm welcoming it with open arms.