Here are capsule reviews of CDs by local bands or groups that play in the area.
Swamp Boogie Queen, "Ill Gotten Booty" (N2K)
The Queen here is none other than Abigail Lenz, who has Janis Joplin power but a far healthier EKG. Lenz may be skinnier than 6 o'clock, but her vocals fairly explode out of the speakers with Richter-scale intensity. The songs are just average blues-rock concoctions, but you won't care because Lenz is so dynamic. Unfortunately, this disc only captures about half the power this Valley-based band generates when it plays live.
Next gig: Tonight at the Reseda Country Club.
J.J. "Bad Boy" Jones, "Ashes in the Wind" (Aries Records)
Wearing a big black hat and a disarming smile, Jones has been playing the guitar for 60 years, so he's pretty much got that figured out. His second album, recorded with a tight backup band, is another helping of soulful Louisiana-by-way-of-California blues. The former cross-country trucker, now a full-time blues man and longtime mainstay on the SoCal scene, writes lines such as "I was the only hell my mama ever raised."
Next gig: Sept. 24 at Cozy's in Sherman Oaks.
Girl Next Door, "Remembering Analogue" (Ripley Recordings)
The bouncers can chill; this band is in no danger of creating a maniacal mosh pit. The "girl" in question here is Kat Green, who uses her powerhouse voice effectively on a number of troubled-relationship songs. Her jazzy and bluesy style is not so much unlike Kate Bush or Tori Amos. This band is certainly different, but live, it seems meandering and unfocused, making you wish this Girl Next Door was the girl in the next county.
Magic Slim & the Teardrops, "Black Tornado" (Blind Pig)
Here's a tornado any club, or even trailer park, would love to have around. This is sweaty, rockin', roadhouse blues by a master of the craft. Slim tears things up on guitar, too.
Next gig: Sept. 23 at B.B. King's in Universal City.
Still, "The Distance" (Lizard Heart Records)
The cosmic ratio of drummers to bands must be out of whack, because Still is yet another group on hiatus due to a between-drummers crisis. Still features a collection of finely crafted pop songs by Wade Biery, whose credits include gigs with Dillon O'Brian and Carlene Carter. Biery's songs are pretty mellow and won't scare the cat or cause the folks to cut you out of the will. "Not That Strong" could be the theme song for rehabs everywhere. A polished effort.
The Regulators, "Bar & Grill" (Southbound Records)
Hey, it's Southern rock right here in Southern California. The bombastic arena-rock and boogie riffs should thrill all those bikers dreaming of the day they get that Harley out of the shop. If you think "Free Bird" is one of the greatest rock songs of all time, this band is for you.
Blue by Nature, "Live at the Lake" (Hostel Records)
It takes two CDs for just 13 songs, most of them long-winded bluesy rockers featuring the powerful vocals of Karen Lawrence recorded live at the Lake Alice Trading Company in Riverside. A couple of shredding guitarists create some serious rock grooves. And there's none of that cry-in-your-beer boring blues stuff. Plus, Lawrence is one of the best blues singers around. That works.