CHRIS SPRAGUE
Hammer Down! - CD
If you are a fan of truck driving songs, you owe it to yourself to add this platter to your play list. I never caught The Sprague Brothers when they were rippin' it up, but I dig their music and have seen Chris "Sugar Balls" Sprague provide the backbeat for quite a few Deke Dickerson shows. Chris shifts gears for this set and turns in a real smoker. Most of the songs are covers, but a lot of them were new to me the first time around. This one was on my deck at work for about a week straight! Chris has a knack for picking tunes that present the life of the long hauler that are imbued with a healthy heaping of warmth and wit. "Chick Inspector," "Girl on the Billboard," "Philadelphia Phillies" and "Gear Bustin' Sort of Feller" are songs that make life on the road seem downright fun. There are three songs here that Chris wrote and they are just as good as the standards, if you ask me. "Diesel Smoke 'n' Cigarettes," "It's been a Lonely Stretch of Road" and "Peterbilt My Home" are all charming and memorable. Maybe on his next album Sugar Balls can do a whole set of plumber songs. (18 Wheeler Records - www.sugarballs.com)

LOS STRAITJACKETS
In Concert - DVD
I remember the very first time I ever saw this band. They were on a bill with a couple other excellent instrumental bands and they blew everyone away. The audience, the other bands, even Los Straitjackets themselves must have been changed by the amazing set. I remember thinking it had to be the Mexican wrestling masks that made the difference. That definitely added to their charm, but the truth of the matter is the band wrote awe inspiring material and played their instruments like gods descended from some guitar heaven. Danny Amis, Eddie Angel, Pete Curry and Jimmy Lester had it going on and this footage from a show they did in San Francisco (and a few other venues) in 2005 proves I didn't just happen to catch them doing their one mind blowing performance. The DVD opens with an intro that captures the pure zaniness that has always been at the heart of the whole Los Straitjackets project. The scene opens with Eddie, Danny, Jimmy and Pete riding the wild surf at a beach and then enjoying a few pleasure beverages at a Tiki bar. Danny's Dick Tracy vidphone wristwatch (isn't that Kaiser George?) alerts them that they have 15 minutes to get to the stage. They hop on motorcycles and speed to the airport, hop a jet, parachute back to Earth and then drive over the Golden Gate Bridge just in time to make the scene. The footage is incredible, the camera angles give you all the action and the sound is just about as good as that on any CD. What the heck are you waiting for? (Yep Roc Records - www.yeproc.com)

TEACHER'S PET
Self-Titled - CD
There was a Southern California (San Diego?) band called Teacher's Pet a few years back and I figured this was a collection of their after the fact vault material. Nope. This is the recorded legacy of a band from Ohio that recorded a cool single in 1978, blazed a trail of punk pop madness throughout Northern Ohio and then splintered in 1980. It's pretty amazing that there weren't any more records released from this batch of tight and tough new wave ravers, especially considering that the title track of their 45, "Hooked on You," is so good. "Meet Me at the Hot Dog Stand in Half an Hour but Don't Tell Your Dad" is about as good as teen power pop gets. The songs all feature plenty of cheesy keyboards and crunchy '77 guitars. The band's songs are clever, catchy and deal with all the things punks were into in the late '70s, fast food, suicide, alienation and prostitution. They also knew the importance of picking choice quality cover material. Hence their raw and rockin' version of "I'm Henry the Eighth I am." The band broke up as the '80s dawned and various members have played in a bunch of bands since, one of which, The King Dapper Combo, was the first band my sweetie played in. Teacher's Pet is talking about a reunion. Sounds like fun. (Smog Veil Records - www.smogveil)

BOB URH & THE BARE BONES
Swamp O Delic - CD
This is quite different than the last record I heard by Bob. I don't remember if he had a posse with him last time, but The Bare Bones this time is one of those me, myself and I sort of deals. Bob plays and sings all the parts and probably operated the tape machine too. Some of the songs are filled out a bit, but most are stripped to the primer coat meanderings through Bob's twisted mind with nothing but his agitated voice, squeaky harp and tortured guitar to guide you. Various levels of tape hiss inform the listener that one song is ending and a new one is starting. Bob's obsessions include Zombies and walking bones. Fifteen tracks of dirty experimental blues rambling including two versions of a number called "Boom Boom a Zoom Zoom." Primal stuff. (Green Cookie Records - www.greencookie.gr)

VARIOUS ARTISTS
Don't Press Your Luck - CD
Every town should have had a Doc Cavalier back in the sixties. I know there are plenty of comps by local '60s teen combos from every corner of the globe, but there could have been even more if the adults of the day had leant some support. The good doctor had a thriving practice pulling rotten teeth, drilling rancid crud out of molars and poking his nose around in halitosis infected mouths. Why he would give up such nirvana to mess about in a recording studio with a bunch of guitar toting kids is any one's guess. He did, though, and thanks to that decision this package is brimming with some of the highest quality fuzz monsters around. Rather than settle for substandard recordings of tinny three chord punk, Doc Cavalier strived to give his young protégés the chance to work through their ideas, experiment with various studio techniques and turn out some truly memorable music. There is an edge found throughout, but The Shags, Bram Rigg Set, George's Boys, The Lively Ones, Uranus and The Five Moons, The Wildweeds, The Bearies and Fourth Ryke created fiery works of art that any radio station could play without feeling like they were doing the local kids a favor. Groovy, baby! (Sundazed Music - www.sundazed.com)

VARIOUS ARTISTS
"Theme Time Radio Hour with Your Host Bob Dylan" - CD
Wow, there's a whole bunch of great music on this two CD set! I have never heard Bob's show, but I got all excited when I heard about this project. I was a bit disappointed when I discovered that Bob's intros are not part of this collection. Of course, I would probably go crazy listening to the CD to hear the music a third or fourth time through when I realized I had to sit through the same intros from here on out. I guess it would be cool if CDs were more like DVDs and I could choose to hear the songs with or without the witticisms. Oh well. Bob has been into good music from the time he was just a wee lad and he has managed to expose himself to a world of songs that your casual listener would not necessarily be aware of. Al Dexter and His Troopers, Patrice Holloway, George Zimmerman & The Thrills (with The Bubber Cyphers Band) and Patsy Raye & The Beatniks are just a few of the obscure groups represented. There's also music by The White Stripes, Aretha Franklin, The Clash and various other household names. Bob chose songs for his shows that fit the theme (drink, food, guns or shoes, for example) and appealed to his sense of what makes for good songs. 50 songs from 75 years. This is a wonderful way to expand your own musical universe. (Ace Records - www.acerecords.com)

LOS YORKS
El Viaje: 1966 - 1974 - CD
Los Yorks hailed from Lima, Peru. While most of us Anglos were completely unaware of what our Spanish-speaking rock brethren were up to, some of the bands had a huge impact on the locals. Los Yorks was that kind of group. Their powerful stage show and strong material was so compelling that the kids referred to their general vibe as "rhythm sickness." The group was so popular they had their own TV show in which they camped it up and played their tunes, which were hits with the Peruvian kids. They owed a lot of their thundering sound to bands like The Yardbirds, The Stones and The Animals, but they also wrote a lot of their own material. This 21-track collection is a testament to the glorious fuzz drenched music that had the whole world in its grip at one point. There is a song here called "Pronto Un Doctor," a jazzy pop romp that is worth the price of admission alone. But there are 20 other raw ravers and cheesy covers to groove to. Don't be dorks; dig Los Yorks!!! (Munster Records - www.munster-records.com)