August 2001

Duane Jarvis - Certified Miracle
Slewfoot Records SF803
Released: 2001

by Marc Rigrodsky

Musical Performance *****
Recording Quality ***
Overall Enjoyment *****

[Reviewed on CD]Unless you listen to your local classic-rock radio station, you’ve probably forgotten (or never knew) that the Rolling Stones produced some pretty decent country rock in the late 1960s and early 1970s. "Honky Tonk Women," "Wild Horses," and "Sweet Virginia" are some of the more famous examples. Until now, Duane Jarvis has been known primarily because he has co-written songs with Lucinda Williams, the (deserved) queen of alternative country. However, by brilliantly conjuring the spirit of the Rolling Stones circa 1970 on his new album, Certified Miracle, Jarvis shows that he is ready for the big time on his own.

Simply put, Certified Miracle sounds like a Stones album of that '60s-into-'70s period. The degree of time warp is astonishing, deja vu all over again. But, for the same reasons I dug the Stones back then, I dig Duane Jarvis now. He combines intelligent lyrics with sneering, leering vocals, adds crunchy riffs, slows the pace just a bit when needed, and tops off the package with a little twang. That, friends, is a winner, whether it’s 1971 or 2001.

For starters, Jarvis’ vocal delivery is a dead ringer for Mick’s. The phrasing and tone are so similar, it’s scary. This isn’t a knock on Jarvis; he just reminds me how good Mick was before he became socially acceptable. This is attitude with attitude, emoting with a smirk rather than a punk scream.

Jarvis can taunt and pose without embarrassing himself because his material is so good. "Forgive the Fool," for example, is just plain funny: "Forgive the fool/Who fell off his stool/And later danced on your table/He’s got his good points/He knows all the joints/It’s better than watching cable." Can you just hear Mick singing "Look at me don’t pass me by/ I wanna be the only apple of your eye/Take a little bite of me, I’m so sweet/Dinner’s on the table, bon appetit"? If you can’t, listen to "Honky Tonk Women" again. Better yet, listen to Duane Jarvis singing "Squeaky Wheel." In "Sad Blue Year," he tells a compelling love-gone-bad story while simultaneously strafing Prince: "1999 was supposed to be a celebration/That’s what The Artist said/I never got the invitation."

All of this wouldn’t be worth as much without the riffs to back it up, but Jarvis has Keith down musically almost as much as he has Mick down vocally. The songs don’t all have the same iron spine as vintage Stones, but they usually come close. Jarvis mixes a little gospel and some blues, just as the Stones did, then adds his own spices like the Mexican groove of "Forgive the Fool." He also includes a version of "Still I Long For Your Kiss," which was co-written with Lucinda Williams and appeared on her magnificent Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.

It’s been a long time since smart, smirking, self-confident, double-entendre-filled country rock was fashionable. Duane Jarvis demonstrates how good it was -- and still can be. Oh, and if you’re out there Mick, awaiting the next tour, eat your heart out.