It hardly seems possible that Joe Evans IV has been fronting his explosive guitar/drums duo Left Lane Cruiser for over 15 years, in that time compiling a catalog of nearly a dozen albums at a pace of an album per year. The band has only recorded for two labels during their history; their first album was released through Hillgrass Bluebilly in Evans' hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana, and the rest of the band's releases have come via L.A.-based indie Alive Records, home at one time or another to the likes of The Black Keys, Radio Moscow and Cincinnati’s own Buffalo Killers.
Evans started Left Lane Cruiser in 2004 with drummer Brenn “Sausage Paw” Beck, releasing Gettin' Down On It two years later. From the start, Evans pledged his allegiance to North Mississippi guitar swampers like R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough, marrying their six-string Blues histrionics to his own affinity for Punk and Garage Rock.
Left Lane Cruiser fleshed out its sound with the addition of keyboards provided by Black Diamond Heavies' James Leg for the 2012 album Painkillers. Highlighted by covers of Jimi Hendrix's “If 6 Was 9,” Led Zeppelin's “When the Levee Breaks” and the Rolling Stones' “Sway,” the album also featured bass from renowned Detroit producer Jim Diamond and harp from Harmonica Shah. The sound of bass must have appealed to Evans; for 2015's Dirty Spliff Blues, he added four-stringer Joe Bent (who also played “electrified skateboard”), after having welcomed new drummer Pete Dio in 2014. By 2017's Claw Machine Wizard, Bent had also exited the band, making Left Lane Cruiser a duo once again.
Last year saw the duo of Evans and Dio release Shake and Bake, the third Left Lane Cruiser album to feature a cover illustration from renowned fantasy artist William Stout, whose work has graced album covers by The Beach Boys and Firesign Theatre, as well as numerous bootlegs and Heavy Metal magazine. Shake and Bake is filled with classic blistering barnburners like “Two Dollar Elvis,” “Breaking You Down” and the choogling title track, leaving only one question: Will 2020 be an off year for Left Lane Cruiser, or will the duo get back on their album-a-year cycle after the two-year gap between Claw Machine Wizard and Shake and Bake broke their annual album streak at seven? Time will tell.
Left Lane Cruiser plays a free show Friday, Feb. 21 at Newport's Southgate House Revival with Megahussy. Showtime is 9:30 p.m.