By Chris Powers
One look at the artwork for Kim Lenz and the Jaguars’ four official releases probably tells you all you need to know about the Los Angeles rockabilly act. All feature Lenz decked out in some kind of retro evening attire that might be copacetic at a high school sock hop. The group’s self-titled debut cover poses Lenz’s backing band (credited as “her Jaguars”) in matching western suits, sporting pompadour haircuts and mid-century musical equipment. If this does not demonstrate the band’s pledge to their niche genre, I don’t know what does.
Follow Me, the latest effort from the vintage rockers, contains no surprises. Just like the act’s artwork, the songs seem to be planned and positioned in a way that will pay the most respects to a genre that, for all intents and purposes, has run its course. As a result of this, nothing on Follow Me sounds fresh.
Sure, Lenz and her Jaguars are fine musicians that have strung together a catchy set of tunes bound by an honest affinity for raw chicken pickin’ and piano roll blues. Slap back reverb tones abound and feisty keys drill their way through 12-bar shuffles. Lenz’s sultry vocals navigate clever wordplay, like on “Cry Wolf.” “You had me at your beck and call/But you’ll be sorry now,” Lenz wails, followed by a scorching guitar lick. The band certainly knows what they’re doing and the songs stack up well as part of an anachronistic genre piece, but upon second listen, the album begins to sound tired.
On Follow Me, Kim Lenz and the Jaguars offer a musically impressive, but stylistically troubled crop of songs. On one hand, the band’s commitment to the rockabilly genre is impressive; their licks and grooves can hang with the best of them. But on the other hand, the songs offer little embellishment on their tried and true formulas. If Follow Me proves anything, it’s that there is a time and a place for everything.