Ken Layne and the Corvids' debut - "Fought Down" (Scrub Jay, 3 stars) - is alt-country with a strong straight rock influence, resembling Son Volt without the mannered touches or the more laid-back moments of Drive-By Truckers. The highlights - "Like a Train" and the title track - suggest a post-punk update of the Stones' early '70s honky-tonk rock moments. Layne's singing voice is in that rough hewn alt-style, not a perfect-pitch experience but not deliberately loose, and emotional enough to compete with the ringing guitars. Similarly, Layne's lyrics are basic but effective: When he gets more abstract on "Glitter On" and "Mama, Take Another Stand," it shows yet another side he and the Corvids can explore as they continue.
- Mark Earnest
Reno Gazette Journal
With grit and swagger, not unlike the Rolling Stones of the early '70s, Ken Layne & The Corvids play great rock 'n' roll. Glen Reynolds of msnbc.com says it best, "It sounds the way Exile On Main Street would sound if it were recorded in the 21st Century, by guys who weren't already millionaires but who really liked to sing and play." Layne's whiskey soaked voice is kept warm by a blanket of crunchy guitar, and slightly drawled by the Southern-rock vibe that fuels these songs about hard livin' and drinkin'. "Lincoln Town Car" plows a dark trail that reflects the opening lyric - "I was run down, sad, drunk" - to a tee. The closing line of the same song says a lot about the rest of this solid collection, "I'm wasted out my head." This is hard honky-tonk for the punk rocker in you. (Scrub Jay Records)
- Miles of Music
So, how is Fought Down? Real good. This is raw-edged, ramshackle alt-country with a busted taillight. "Worried" is one of the catchiest singles I've heard this year, a perfect selection to play on the you-just-got-jilted-jukebox.
- Tony Peyser
Santa Monica Mirror
If you hunger for real rock 'n' roll -- the kind of music that practically smells of stale beer and leather jackets and overfilled ashtrays, the sort of songs that sound best while rolling down the highway with the windows down -- then Ken Layne & the Corvids more than fit the bill.
- Jim Trageser
North County Times (San Diego)
A few of the adjectives that come to mind: boozy, dirty, gritty, smoky, drunken, achy, freewheeling, debaucherous, earthy, irreverent, gutsy, fuck-all, trashy, swaggering, and -- frankly -- literate. If there's one thing that'll win me over at first listen, it's an album that strives for unpretentious, no-bullshit, cousin-kissing, straight-ahead rock n' roll. This one does. Although, Fought Down's probably just as at home in the "country" corner of Best Buy as the "pop and rock" section, but that's probably more an indictment of Best Buy and modern "pop and rock" than of Fought Down. Layne's got a helluva voice. Little bit Todd Snider. Little bit outlaw country (think Merle, Waylon, George). Little bit Steve Earle. And little bit Mick Jagger.
- Radley Balko
Messy old-fashioned roots rock. "Ain't They Pretty" vibrates and tremolos like a muffled whip crack in an arroyo whereas "Fought Down" is like riding pillion on the back of an old Norton; you hold on for dear life during the twists and turns of the guitar solo. His voice is like a sleep filled eye; it cracks and sticks, sleepily attacking on "Mama, Take Another Stand" behind layers of feedback and Southern Rock aesthetic (cross-pollinated with "Exile on Main Street").
- Americana UK
Ken Layne and the Corvids (which means crows) have a gorgeous new album out, called Fought Down. It is luxurious and nocturnal electrified country rock that somehow has its heart in Eastern Europe. Or part of it, anyway. Nothing to do with the sound; just the spirit. The guitars may come from Manchester via Austin; the rest is floating somewhere over the desert, at night, in a Santa Ana wind, just before the Big One hits.
- Kate Sullivan
Rock journalist / author
There's some grit and reality to this record which I never saw in my 10 or so trips to the Los Angeles area, which leads me to believe there's some kind of secret roots rock society there, where you can eat fatty foods, smoke cigarettes, and actually listen to the band on stage, rather than posing yourself to get laid by someone higher on 'the ladder' than you. Go West young man.
- Jack Sparks, The Other Side of Country
* * *
Ken Layne and his mysterious band the Corvids have rarely performed in public. Yet their 2004 release, "Fought Down," has all the energy and emotion of a crystal-clear recording of a perfect concert. (In fact, the record was made in three long nights at a vintage recording studio in Pasadena, California. The band performed live in a single room, and what you hear is what was played.)
Only his third official release in 15 years of writing and performing music, "Fought Down" is a drastic departure from the lo-fi drum-machine-powered country folk of his 2002 release, the solo "Analog Bootlegs" and a far cry from the unfortunate '80s production on his "roots rock" debut with The Outriders in 1988.