July 2007

The Detroit Cobras - Tied & True
Bloodshot Records BS 139
Format: CD
Released: 2007

by Shannon Holliday

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

The city of Detroit and the sounds of soul have long been synonymous, and the tradition lives on with the Detroit Cobras. Although undergoing multiple incarnations since their 1996 debut, they are undoubtedly stirring up a fan base and putting the "motor" back in Motor City. The Cobras have found their niche by dusting off forgotten Motown and R&B tracks and breathing new life into these long-overlooked oldies. Obscurity aside, the group has no trouble recognizing a good song, and while none of the tracks breaches the three-minute mark, they all pack a punch that makes you wanna yip and yowl.

Released on the Chicago-based indie label Bloodshot Records, Tied & True is a collection of songs about cat fights, green lights, heartaches and mistakes. Equal parts honky tonk, surf rock, boogaloo and soul, this disc could have been made in 1957 or 2007. Rachel Nagy unleashes her gravely growl with the opening Bob Elgin beater "As Long As I Have You," and it’s love at first lick. While the Equals song "Green Light" is a less obscure pick than most of the selections, it gets a hopped up, heavy-handed makeover from guitarist Mary Ramirez, and the Willie James soul classic "Try Love" gives Nagy’s voice a chance to soften up and go uncharacteristically girlie, shuffling along to a casual doo-wop.

All of the musicians work to highlight lead singer Nagy’s swaggering vocals; the instrumentation on these covers is as balanced and succinct as the original clean cuts: no frills, just chills. The guitar offers sonic richness, while the lead and back-up vocals are balanced and harmonic. The bass is solid and focused without being overbearing, while the incorporation of timpani beefs up the percussion and gives spectral depth to a few choice cuts.