With a name like Kim Lenz and the Jaguars, you have to expect pure 1950’s rockabilly. And that’s exactly what you get, but with less of a “dragster” sound then their name would imply. The sound is not as hard as the Calicoes or even the Deluxtone Rockets and much less technical than the late Stray Cats, but Kim Lenz and the Jaguars are energetic and can keep the joint jumpin’.
I was fortunate enough to see them here in Lincoln and the whole place got rowdy. Their sound is comparable to the early Elvis days of “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Blue Suede Shoes,” but with female vocals in the vein of an aggressive Patsy Cline. Watch “Loving You” (an early Elvis movie) and you’ll hear precisely what I mean. On a few of the tracks, Carl Leyland adds a piano to create a lively Jerry Lee Lewis feel and lend a little more fullness to the sound.
With just a glance at the song titles, it’s obvious what to expect. “Howl At the Moon” (not to be confused with “Bark At the Moon”) leads off the album with Chuck Berry-ish guitar riffs and the walking stand-up bass plucked by Shawn Supra; it easily sets the tone for the rest of the record. Kim’s yodel-tinged “howl” gives the needed ’50s country touch that I always anticipate when listening to a band that tries to bring back the golden age of rock n’ roll.
The most amusing title is “If You Don’t Like My Peaches, Don’t Shake My Tree”; it literally screams, “Go Cat, Go!” Nick Curran’s use of the widebody guitar is impressive and reminds me of early Brian Setzer as the track takes off like “Jailhouse Rock” (sorry, I’m a big Elvis fan). Curran displays his talents again throughout “Rock and Roll Guitar,” a song that seems made for Buddy Holly’s voice, as Kim sings about the king of the rock n’ roll guitar.
There is one heavyhearted ballad found on The One and Only, which is somewhat disappointing since the ballad was so common and actually pleasing back in the day. “Truest Love” is a genuine Texas love song of misery and missed passion. But it’s by far the only slow dance on either side of the Jaguars’ vinyl.
Though not covered in tattoos, Kim Lenz and the Jaguars have an effective tone that almost any rockabilly fan would find tempting. The lusty songs, reminiscent of those from the old school, average a mere three minutes each, and never lose their potency. The constant upbeat rhythm keeps the tempo fierce and the cats a-hoppin’. Definitely worth checking out.
Written by Nolan Shigley.