Chronic with a K
Former Blue Cheer guitarist Leigh Stephens has resurfaced on the California music scene some 30-odd years after BC's Haight-Ashbury heyday of the sixties. His new band, Chronic With a K, and their first release, 'Ride The Thunder', resembles little of that era, (albeit intentionally) focusing instead on a '90's style ranging from country-tinged ballads to put-your-foot-into-it power chord rock. Featuring vocalist/keyboardist Melissa Olsen, who sounds like she would be perfectly at home performing on the Lilith Fair tour, the set was produced by Stephens and long-time collaborator and bassist, Ron Stone. Ride The Thunder emphasizes Stephens versatility as a songwriter and showcases a surprising flexibility in his fretboard style. The title track sums up much of what this album is about. Muted staccatto picking by Leigh subtley builds into blazing power chord crescendos behind Melissa's sometimes delicate, othertimes fiery vocals. 'Like A River', a Stephens-penned ballad, is strictly Melissa's vehicle, her vocals and keyboards displayed over pop-country hooks that would be at home on any number of today's Nashville efforts. 'Only Make Believe' is a real-treat - the Conway Twitty classic features Leigh's guitar literally 'digging' the foundation on an up-tempo arrangement that works surprisingly well. 'Oops' is another surprise - you can tell Leigh had fun with this one- just when you're being lulled into the laid-back piano melody, Leigh quite unexpectedly cuts loose with a blistering knock-your-socks-off solo that flashes pure Blue Cheer again. Hey, comparisons are going to be inevitable - the man helped invent the power trio and he's not about to be suppressed on this outing.