For all of you readers that aren’t familiar with the geography of Canada, I’m going to solve a riddle for you. There’s no ocean in the lovely province of Alberta. Instead you get a series of rivers, mountains and prairie terrain. Couple that with the fact it is as cold as a whore’s heart, and you might wonder how a surf rock band like The Ramblin’ Ambassadors can exist?
The answer, as their new record - Vista Cruiser Country Squire - proves, is by somehow mixing two parts hillbilly with one part Dick Dale and one part Spicoli to create a sound that is pretty well unique. Sure, Surfabilly is something lots of bands run with, but try to picture Corb Lund leaving his horses at home and trying to kick it for a few weeks at Huntington beach. The Ramblin’ Ambass have all the shimmery, vintage sounds (the songs are laced in tremolo), but they still have the dusty textures and feedback you’d expect to come from heavy bearded, plaid shirt wearing, tattooed hombres.
Camino Real opens the effort and while you settle into the joyous surf guitar, you get a wake up call from the distortion and grit that settles at the bottom of the mix. Cecilia Ann uses the same recipe, and the suprising surge really pushes the band past sounding like another Dick Dale/Ventures outfit, and more into the realm of the Red Elvises. Cupcakes De Milo has some feverish guitar work, heavy punk rawking drums and I guess if I wanted to put the sound in perspective, I’d say that if you wanted to surf to this music, you’d be the guys they talked about in Dogtown and Z-boys that would fight you over a wave.
That’s not to say the band isn’t routed in the classic sounds. They take the time to pay homage with covers of The Surftones and The Bel-Airs, it’s just that they are trying to put their stamp on the genre. Perhaps the biggest treat for the listener is their take on the Sadies track, Rat Creek. The Ambassador’s keep the crashing drums and high energy, but add a bit more of the California sun to the track, and the result is terrific.
I know most people think surf rock was played out after Pulp Fiction (or maybe after the Fatboys dropped Wipeout), but this record gives the sounds the kick in the teeth needed to keep you listening for 11 songs. Don’t believe me? Just listen to the guitar solo on March of Dimes and enjoy.
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