The Chicago Vin Coalition is a garage/blues rock band hailing from Boston, Massachusetts. It is centred around singer/songwriter Chicago Vin Earnshaw, backed up by a fine array of musicians including Don Larsen on lead guitar and Leo Dumas on drums. Their music is a potent meld of garage rock bands like The Stooges and MC5, the raw early sound of The Kinks and alternative blues artists like Tom Waits and Captain Beefheart. Amongst modern bands, they most closely resemble The Black Keys, who are also a stated influence.
This album, American Dream, consists of nine tracks and gets off to an incendiary start with the title song. It sounds like a cross between The Kinks and The Stooges, with Chicago Vin Earnshaw’s authentic rock voice halfway between Iggy Pop and Captain Beefheart. The music has a fantastic energy, captured brilliantly by producer Annie Larsen. The song is about how the old dream of making it big in a band is dying: “Hey wake up! Get ready to move….American dream going down the tube…”.
Hey Little Girl is built around a simple but highly effective three chord structure, and is perhaps the closest track to The Black Keys in terms of sound and style. As with the first track, the vocal hooks are instantly memorable, aided by biting, electrifying lead guitar from Dan Larsen. Chicago himself contributes guitar and bass, as well as rich Vox organ on a few tracks including these first two.
Walk Away has a slighter mellower feel and a more gentle sound, with some fine keyboard work by Bill Lacaille. This is one song I would define as classic rock in the vein of the late Tom Petty, and it’s another track with a memorable chorus. No Use Fighting is a change of pace; gritty blues that brought to mind the more mainstream moments of Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet). A great showcase for Earnshaw’s unique, powerful voice with Don Larsen playing some gorgeous, mellifluous guitar runs over traditional twelve bar blues changes.
Fifth track Silence Is Golden is another change of pace, a mid tempo country rock song based around strummed acoustic guitar which varies the sound nicely. The raucous, driving barroom boogie of the following Blonde Infatuation is another shift in gears, with some fabulous barrelhouse piano from Mark Taber plus wonderfully raucous tenor sax, courtesy of Klem Klimmer. A very enjoyable track with excellent dynamics and vibe.
Ride Past Midnight is the epic of the album at nearly eight minutes long. It’s a raw blues song with a loping beat that recalls the Stones classic Midnight Rambler. The momentum of the musical energy and Chicago’s rootsy blues vocals carry the song so well that you almost don’t even notice the length, especially with the stellar lead guitar work of Don Larsen once again, and some fine blues harmonica from Chris Stovall Brown.
Yesterday’s Gone is one of the more melancholic songs on the album, which runs the gamut of emotion over its course. It’s a good example of the craftsmanship at the heart of Earnshaw’s songwriting, this one having a lilting feel that brought to mind 1970’s era Neil Young & Crazy Horse. The way the instruments blend together, especially piano and guitar, shows what a tight musical unit this coalition are.
The final track Life Line ends the album on a real high musically, though lyrically its heartfelt and shot through with desperation, as the title hook captures perfectly: “Somebody throw me a life line….”. It’s a superb rock song that the Stones would have been proud to put on Exile On Main Street, with its Jagger-esque vocal melody and razor sharp Keith Richards-style lead guitar.
Overall, this is a much needed reminder that great rock ‘n roll is still being made by authentic artists. Chicago Vin Earnshaw is a very fine songwriter, blessed with a great voice for blues and rock that can stand up against the best in the field. The album’s consistency and variety shows his musical range, and his collective of gifted friends more than ably assist him, they bring his artistic vision to life. If you love The Black Keys, I implore you to give a listen to The Chicago Vin Coalition.