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20 Watt Tombstone – Year of the Jackalope Award winner

20 Watt Tombstone
Year of the Jackalope
by Leanne Evans at 11 February 2021, 10:45 AM

Well hasn’t the stoner rock scene just been completely turned upside down since 20 WATT TOMBSTONE came sliding in with their southern bluesy charm 10 years ago this month?! With the sound of an amalgamation of Kyuss, Clutch and ZZ Top all rolled into one, Tom and Mitch have shown an effortless ability to create an authentically unique vibe. Hailing from Wausau, Wisconsin, the undaunted duo pack-a-punch with their work. Their fantastic debut album “Wisco Disco” set the bar high and the release of “Death Blues v The Dirty Spliff”, with Left Lane Cruiser, showcased the band’s ability to construct a seamless collaboration and propelled them to the next level.

20 WATT TOMBSTONE’s newest addition to their growing catalogue is the self-released EP “Year of the Jackalope”. The gory artwork is of the fictional Jackalope - a mash-up of a rabbit and antelope - the Jackalope, in Tom’s own words is “one very messed up creature”, and a tongue-in-cheek take on the dreadful year that 2020 was. It thwarted the band’s ability to tour, BUT also offered a silver-lining in being able to give Tom and Mitch the time to do more writing and plan their next move. In the meantime, the duo made a brave bold move to undertake covers of some big tracks by accomplished artists. Notoriously, this can make or break a band in one fell swoop; we can safely say that this EP has achieved the former and the guys have reinvented and injected a distinctly different sound into the songs. Tom and Mitch have pumped their own originality into the tracks, whilst respecting the original heart and soul of the songs; that, to me, is what makes a brilliant cover.

An amped up version of ZZ Top’s “Just Got Paid” cuts in razor sharp, but there’s nothing clean about this sound. Everything is moody heavy blues styling with a dirty twist. Filthy fuzz, sexy slide work and heavy riffs aplenty, the sound penetrates you and Mitch’s work on the drums give that bit of dirty bite.  The track is overflowing with headiness, steamy heaviness and is pretty darn sexy. But the absolute crowning glory of this track is Tom’s salacious gritty rawness on his vocals; tipped me over the God damn edge. I never thought I would witness the day ZZ Top would be ‘out filthed’, let alone in one of their own tracks. Well, the kings of sexual innuendo got well and truly outdone by 20 WATT TOMBSTONE with their take on the band’s classic, giving it an updated suggestive southern blend that just works. ZZ Top will certainly be tipping their Stetson 10-gallons to this.

The second - and final - track on the EP is a cover of Chris Stapleton’s “Midnight Train to Memphis”. 20 WATT TOMBSTONE turn a mid-tempo profound piece into a meaty belter of a beast, with chunky riffs and drumming that cuts through like a knife to butter. Tom’s sultry guitar work and vocals are intoxicating and get you hot under the collar. Who’d have thought that a song about doing time could sound so darn hot?!

The distorted sound, raspy vocals and stifling heaviness 20 WATT TOMBSTONE bring to these tracks ooze sex and come with a naughty twinkle in its eyes. You question if it’s meant to be as arousing and sordid as it’s conveyed, but it feels so right; delightfully mucky Americana. To say this EP is just over 7 minutes, I could feel my best worst lascivious behaviour wanting to break out and craved shaking what my momma gave me for every one of those glorious 420 seconds. The fact Tom and Mitch have taken on two VERY big songs and made them their own, yet still achieved projecting a completely different sound in these tracks compared to earlier releases, is testament to their huge talent and abilities. They have a down-to-earth realness and effortless charm about them, it makes it impossible not to vibe them and want to delve deeper. “Year of the Jackalope” really is a great listen and a teasing nod towards new material from 20 WATT TOMBSTONE in the not too distant future. Boy, am I looking forward to the next chapter!

Songwriting: 10
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 10

5 Star Rating

1. Just Got Paid
2. Midnight Train to Memphis
Tom Jordan – Guitarist and Vocalist
Mitch Ostrowski - Drummer
Record Label: Independent


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