Remember a few months ago
when it was revealed that Texas senator
and prez-wannabe Phil Gramm was allegedly "impressed" by a skin
flick entitled Truck Stop Women? That must have been a little
embarrassing for ol' Phil. But surely he was thanking his
lucky stars that his good name didn't end up associated with Kansas
country-punkers Truck Stop Love. Sporting influences from Big Star
to Buddy Holly to the Replacements, TSL's thicker-than-mud guitar
sludge and vocal grit comes out dirtier than any blue movie.
I talked to singer/guitarist Rich Yarges on the phone recently. He was
relaxing at his Kansas home during a rare tour break. First order of business
was to find out what's up with the name. Truck Stop Love? "Some guy who was
in the band when we first
started came up with it," said Yarges, using a time-tested ploy to avoid any
responsibility for the name. "Right before the semester ended we played
our first show, then he went home for Christmas vacation and never
came back. Funny thing, when we did our CD release party, at the
same time there was this big headline in Salinas that said Truck
Stop Love, and it was about hookers in truck stops."
Truck Stop Love's debut LP, How I Spent My Summer Vacation, was
issued by Scotti Bros. Records earlier this year, and the band has
been touring almost non-stop ever since. Last week they headed to the
after covering the West in the last couple of months.
The album's playful title track, which slams into being with a
guitar frenzy before cooling off with the harmonious lyric, "Sangria...with
wine and tequila." The song was based on a true story. Only the names were
changed to protect the innocent. "It was
inspired by Brad's (bassist Brad Huhmann) summer vacation last summer,"
admitted Yarges. "His girlfriend was out of town, and we had a show in Des
Moines that got canceled, and a few of us were over at Brad's house
drinking. But we didn't tell our girlfriends or anyone that we weren't in
Des Moines. Brad had this weird experience with this girl who ended up
getting a DUI, and he wrote the song about it."
Yarges is a recent graduate of Kansas
State (his degree's in anthropology). But he speaks and sings like a
guy who's been on the road for decades. The band met up at KSU and
quickly hooked up with Scotti Bros. through a contact drummer Eric
Melin happened to make while working at the campus radio station.
Their booking agent later suggested that the band contribute a song
to a Tom Petty tribute album he was putting together. The album,
You Got Lucky, featured twelve Petty covers by underground and
unsigned bands, and helped to launch the career of Everclear. Truck Stop Love
covered "Listen To Her Heart."
That recording, like the rest of TSL's studio work, is deliciously sloppy.
Yarges knows it. "When we did our EP [prior to the album] I didn't like
working in the
studio. We had a producer that was very professional, and it just
wasn't our style."
Thank goodness for that. TSL, in their lo-fi glory, are twisting
old-fashioned countrified rock every way they know how. When it
works, it's dazzling, and when it doesn't, who cares? [Editor's note: Speak
for yourself.] It's always
a concoction so savory, even Phil Gramm would approve. Maybe.