On his third disc guitar-slinger J.J. Vicars wanders up north for a dark ride through the heartland of America. Inspired by an intoxicated mix of The Stones, Humble Pie, and early Skynyrd with touches of Oscar Wilde and Charles Bukowski this is his heaviest and hardest rocking album ever.
Fitting for an album named 'heartland' it kicks off with the Mellencamp-tinged ONE OF THESE DAYS. Snarling electric guitar doubled with acoustic lays into a mid-tempo pocket and you can see the open highway stretchd out ahead. The lyric tells the tale of a young man wandering far from home on a freewheeeling adventure, down to his last.
BUSTIN' MY ASS is a trademark J.J. Vicars rocker. Driving guitar and vocal rail against the seeming imprisonment of a dead-end job and a blazing solo at the end takes it out in full glory.
HUNGRY FOR YOUR TOUCH dips back into the Blues yearning for the company of a young woman. The brief description "...the finest eyes/hair like the evil Medusa..." says she must have been intoxicating to look at. A haunting solo at the end drives the point home.
LOVE OR LUST is more lust than love. Another over-the-top blazing rocker with a thick driving guitar riff it's 2 1/2 minutes of pure unadulterated Rock'n'Roll swagger.
BEEN AROUND LONG ENOUGH brings it back to the dark underside hinted at in the begining. The sparse guitars and menacing groove underscore the discontent. Ghostly slide guitar puncuates the lament.
Inspired by a daily dose of several Big Gulp-size gin & tonics and the British comedy ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS, JET SET is a tongue-in-cheek peaon to 'the Rock 'n' Roll lifestyle'. A vaguely Ted Nugent guitar riff and tongue-in-cheek psuedo-Metal solos couch three verses describing the elegantly wasted rocker in all his bleary-eyed glory trying to '...get to work on time...' One foot in the gutter and one foot in the grave,shades covering bloodshot eyes on the way to the gig before another after show party. The good life!
EMPTY SILENCE quiets things down for a moment. A soft minor key ballad of loss and loneliness it pays tribute to an altogether different Indiana music icon. During the ending solo J.J. tips his hat to Jazz legend Wes Montgomery with some beautifully executed thumbed octaves.
All of the anger and frustration that had been hinted at earlier is finally summed up and given a single focused release in the catharcic FAREWELL AND GOODBYE. Over the heaviest guitar riff J.J. has ever cranked out he rails against the phony inhumanity that had grown up in the country in recent years. The explosion of suburbs, strip malls, theme restaurants and all the other trappings of an overly safe, isolated, pathetically bland and spiritually empty existence are unapologetically targeted as the primary source of discontent and alienation that have run rampant. "An artist's job is to realize the world as he see it not reform it as he knows it," wrote Oscar Wilde and this is what J.J. saw when as a young man he returned to the country and wandered the Heartland, a shallow and empty way of life that robbed the country of its culture and the people of their humanity, paving the way for the blind-sheep nationalism that engulfed the country less than a decade later in the wake of 9-11, the Iraq war and two stolen elections.
After the rage and fury have receded things calm down. PICK UP THE PIECES gives voice to the soft resolution to go forward and move on as best as can be done. The point has been made, the ugly truths confronted. The rage has served its purpose. The tired and weary traveler must accept what he's seen for what it is and now go his own way, "...sometimes there's nothing left to say..." A heartfelt and lamenting solo reminiscent of Dickey Betts/Gary Rossington carries it out. Halfway through,with a slight nod to Tommy Bolin's WILD DOGS, mournful slide guitar picks it up and takes it home until both guitars dovetail out seamlessly at the end.
Better to go out with a bang and not a whimper and that's exactly what he does on SPINNIN' MY WHEELS. Taking Keith Richard's apocalyptic GIMME SHELTER riff and reworking it into his own he once more contemplates what he's seen, this time not with anger and rage but with a mischievous grin and continental flair. The outlaw rocker has journeyed through the Heartland,come face to face with her dark side and with his own. With swagger and bravado he kicks down the walls and blazes his own trail.
This is not an album for the feint of heart. This is a hard and honest look at the creeping conservatism in its early stages that eventually overtook the country and exploded in 2001. It strips away the delusions of those cold and timid souls who willingly acquiesced their freedoms for the illusion of security. It holds the public en mass responsible for the decline of true Americana and the rise of right-wing conservatism and the current military state the country has become. It was never intended to be political but upon release, some 12 years after it was written, its message is as loud and true as ever. Freedom and heroism are the individual asserting himself in the face of the machine, the state, and mass hysteria, defending his right to live his own life on his own terms, no apologies for who he is. They demand that people take responsibility for themselves and pass the buck onto the church or the state. The heartland is indeed a dark place and the outlaw rocker with a flair for the poetic has exposed her underbelly.