The Rakers launch into its new album, "Number Five," with some drama.
"My cousin never was right / After she saw the Gonzales lights!" vocalist-guitarist Alex V. Cook laments, stretching out the words like a distressed street corner preacher. The blip of a prologue sets up "Gonzales Lights," a slow swing of a tall tale set in 1969 that involves Janis Joplin, Charlie Daniels and the Grateful Dead dropping acid into the groundwater at Prairieville; Wayne Toups igniting swamp gas with a flicked lit cigarette; and Tabby Thomas dispelling spirits — among a flood of other Baton Rouge references ready for a solid pulp novel.
The rest of "Number Five" — the Baton Rouge band's fifth release and its third full-length (not counting a live album) — doesn't really pick up the outlandish thread of "Gonzales Lights," but the opener does establish a few constants on the record: clever storytelling, solid songwriting and a dose of healthy nostalgia that bubbles under the surface.
"Number Five" is 12 tracks of blue-collar rock 'n' roll that's saw-dusted with some honky-tonk and the influence of early-'80s punk and alternative rock. The Rakers calls itself "the thinking man's drinking band," and it's hard to argue with that.
The Rakers — Cook; guitarist-vocalist Lance Porter; bassist Lewis Roussel; guitarist Leon Lejeune; and drummer Anna Byars — wanted to make a fun record, Cook said, but they found that a loose concept was coming together on "Number Five."
"There is a sense of this being a youth to middle age progression," Cook said. " 'Gonzales Lights' being partially about the mysteries of youth shaping you, and 'How I Knew I Wasn't Country' being about finding out what it's like to have someone kick your ass and show you that you aren't as tough as you think you are, to 'Friendly Poison,' which came out of one of the last conversations I had with my father before he died."
"A lot of the songs on this record," added Porter, who co-wrote many of the tracks with Cook, "are looking back at things that happened to us in our youth that led us down this path to playing rock music, which is a really youthful thing."
The Rakers started in 2013, growing out of the Adult Music Club. You can see the band members progressively hone their chops with each release, but it felt like something special happened, first, with The Rakers' 2018 self-titled EP and, now, on a larger scale with "Number Five."
The band has hit on its groove.
The Rakers' "Number Five" can be found online on major streaming platforms and at rakers.bandcamp.com. Vinyl copies of the album can be purchased at Pop Shop Records, Capital City Records and The Exchange.
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