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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Rich Layton and the Troublemakers

Tough Town

Review by Larry Toering

The Northwest has quite a few unique acts, some blues, some Americana and some both. The ones that are both also contain many other flavors, and Rich Layton and the Troublemakers are one I recently spotted. With roots also in the Gulf Texas area, Layton and his band bring the real deal to the area and know how to use it, as they're a great live act to back their recording prowess. Everything from R&B, soul, rock, folk, blues and country, as well as zydeco and other flavors are perfectly blended throughout this music. It all features the excellent songwriting and harp blowing skills of  Layton himself.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 5 at

Track by Track Review
The Blues Are Coming Back Home
This opener is properly placed at the beginning of the set, as any such number should find itself. But, while it has all of the traditional factors to get it there and everything, it's by no means an indication of what is really to be found throughout the record. Many styles are covered, so why not start with what is primarily a blues track, and a good one at that?
Diamond Jim
Most of the tracks are penned by Layton himself, except for a couple on which he collaborated. This one is co-written by guitarist Mark Sexton. It instantly takes a different direction to get the varied flavors kick started swiftly. The harp enters the scene on this smokey number and proceeds to dominate it as a featured instrument. It’s certainly well-qualified to hold that slot, as the swampy vibe this band carries quickly sets in with a smooth effort on this sizzling track.
Love American Style
Although seeming to contrast with the title, this is another solid tune. If anything comes close to country rock here it would be this, but I would still describe it as “Americana.” At least that’s basically the closest leaning, considering how many styles/genres are going on here.
Maria & Ramon
This is a nice little ballad with a Spanish guitar. The whole tale is told with a romantic flair as a sweet chorus holds together the serenade with female background vocals. The previous tune and this one are coupled together perfectly. It’s mariachi style!
Tough Town
The title track kicks in and it's pretty much over. This has a very “Let's Work Together” meets The Fabulous Thunderbirds feel, only with that smooth Layton twist. The fun peaks at just the appropriate time on the disc, as it reaches the maximum enjoyment zone, so far.
The One That Got One
This is where more of a mainstream rock approach takes over, but the harp still plays a role. It's about the one that got the one that got away.
Goodbye Cruel World
If the previous track didn't lean country enough, this one goes there to a greater extent, and it's a nice ending to the first half of the disc, as it really does suit the band best of all it's many flavors. It makes for one of the most enjoyable tracks. There are loads of great harmony all over this.
Million Dollar Town
This is more of the straightforward resulting in Americana more than anything on offer here.
Feel Fine
Imagine a country version of the Beatles classic and that is what you have here, with a kicked up harp to drive it home. Blues lovers might really enjoy this version, as well.
This is a real rockabilly roadhouse number, probably one of the most energetic tunes on the disc.
King's Highway
I really like this one a lot, with its foxtrot drumming and slide guitar work, getting most likely the swampiest effect. It also achieves the high point of the disc, as well. This is killer southern blues rock at its finest, yet tucked away in the Northwest at that. It’s one of several accessible tracks that beg for mass exposure.
Part Time Pay
This is another cool little harp drenched tune that almost has a folky zydeco vibe to it, taking the Americana factor to yet another layer. At this point it's altogether undeniably enjoyable on this track which is only the second to be co-written by Layton. This hits every home very cleverly.
Be That Way Sometime
This is a rollicking closer with a strong country feel behind a romantic lyric. It has some of that southern folkish sound found on the previous track, as well. No effort is lost on the final number to deliver a quality set of great Americana styled rock.


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