Join Riverfront Times Press Club. Because No News is Bad News.

Homespun: Loot Rock Gang, That's Why I've Got to Sing 

Big Muddy Records


It would seem both obvious and insufficient to say that history is important to the Loot Rock Gang. The quartet plays post-war jump-blues and sings often about post-war concerns, alongside more evergreen topics like love, money and the intersection of the two. That the group is named after Jesse James' cavern hideout won't be lost on any Missourian who has trekked to Meramec Caverns (postcard ephemera of which is nicely included in the CD artwork), and opening track "Loot Rock Boogie" plays with that mythology while introducing the outfit to the world. There's history, too, in the band's origins, though of a more recent vintage: Band leader and guitarist Mat Wilson established his unmistakable style with the Rum Drum Ramblers, a trio regularly sidelined as his bandmates tour the world with Pokey LaFarge. Wilson's wife and singing partner, Rachel Fenton, performed for years as Little Rachel, plying twangy R&B in her native Kansas City before moving to St. Louis. It's clear from That's Why I've Got to Sing that Loot Rock Gang is no consolation prize or holding pattern, and alongside low end from both Kellie Everett's baritone sax and Stephen Inman's upright bass, Wilson and Fenton's paired voices mix well while each retaining their signature characteristics.

It's not especially surprising that Pokey LaFarge booked the Loot Rock Gang for his Central Time traveling revue, and not just because he snagged Wilson's bandmates: There's a lovingly anachronistic streak to the album that LaFarge's growing fanbase will no doubt recognize on the package tour. But beyond their roots in decades-old musical styles, Wilson's best songs tend to involve musical transportation to faraway lands. He sounds like a wistful sailor dreaming of shore leave on the gentle, swaying "Full Moon Cataluña" as he and Fenton sing of Spanish terrain. Closing track "Trinidad" is more striking, with Wilson's guitar patterns punching through a sometimes muddy mix with plucky clarity. The song features his most atypical harmonies and most expansive vocals — you can hear what Wilson is capable of when he gives himself (and the band) space to move outside of the confines of its usual rhythms, and his storytelling matches suit. An offhand reference to Omaha Beach grounds the track in the summer of '44 (much like "My Gal Friday," an ode to his grandfather's air force service in World War II), and the effect is a sweet, momentary reverie. Taken amid the noise and static of the modern world (and modern music), the ebullience of That's Why I've Got to Sing stands out not only for its out-of-step nature but for the purity with which it embraces its medium and its themes. The album's title gives it away, and every song just reinforces the joy.

Want your CD to be considered for a review in this space? Send music c/o Riverfront Times, Attn: Homespun, 6358 Delmar Boulevard, Suite 200, St. Louis, Missouri, 63130. Email for more information.

Riverfront Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of St. Louis and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep St. Louis' true free press free.

Read the Digital Print Issue

September 9, 2020

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In St. Louis

© 2020 Riverfront Times

Website powered by Foundation