Neil Michael Hagerty is keeping it together.
The guitarist, known for his involvement with abrasive blues-punk combo Pussy Galore and subsequent unabashed vein-thumping as half of Royal Trux, returns with his second solo album. Plays That Good Old Rock and Roll is an apt title, seeing as how Hagerty runs the gamut from folk to country to white funk to his trademark Allman-on-crack bluesy stomp; the only rock influences missing are those from the past 20 years.
Rock and Roll can in no way be called polished, but, compared to Hagerty’s first solo album and, especially, the more brilliant Royal Trux cuts, the songwriting is smoothed out. His brilliance always came when he took a blues groove and tore it to pieces, falling out of time and tune and throwing in guitarwork that can only be termed “arbitrary.” There are still moments like these on Rock and Roll, but they seem to occupy second stage to a showcase of Hagerty’s versatility. Not that his licks aren’t satisfying; “The Storm Song” is a foot-stomping devotional boogie while the all-too-short “It Could Happen Again” locks down Nashville barroom heartbreak more aptly than any players in that new alt-country mob can.
But it’s cuts like “Shaved Cunt,” with its offensive title enhancing the southern rock, that remind you of Hagerty’s old habits of fucking with his listener and make it a disappointment when he’s eminently nice. Hagerty’s reputation as the unrepentant screwup makes it tough to take him seriously when he plays it straight.