MOVE IT ON OVER -- George Thorogood and the Destroyers. Rounder Records 3024. TIP YOUR WAITRESS -- The Allstars. Adelphi AD 4112.
You hear the name George Thorogood and the Destroyers and you think "punk." Destroyers is a name that belongs on a marquee next to The Clash or The Stranglers. It's not a name that suggests blues-based rock'n'roll, which is what George Thorogood and the Destroyers play.
They'll be playing two shows Friday night at the University of Maryland's Grand Ballroom, but both appearances have been sold out; so unless you already have tickets, you'll just have to wait for a talked-about appearance on NBC's "Saturday Night" to catch their act.
That a band from Delaware, distributed by a company that most consumers never heard of, is doing so well is another example that, even in today's platinum record world, good stuff still gets itself heard.
In this case, the good stuff is bottom-line rock'n'roll churned out by Thorogood on guitar and Jeff Simon on drums and Billy Blough on bass. The band is what used to be called a "power trio" (Cream being another example that springs immediately to mind) and the emphasis is on "power." There are a lot of bands the Destroyers can be compared with -- most notably the more successful bar bands like J. Geils, Southside Johnny and the Nighthawks. Yet, on their second album, "Move It on Over," George Thorogood and the Destroyers have developed their own sound.
What the Destroyers are -- that most of their contemporaries are not -- is endearing. There's something in Thorogood's delivery, his gritty vocals and weeping guitar strains, that sets him apart from the pack.
He's neither the best guitarist nor the prettiest vocalist to ever come down the Beltway. Danny Gatton could pick him apart, and plenty of singers haunting places like the Childe Harold are smoother and better equipped to handle a melody. Still, if Thorogood isn't better, he is different.
Washington has adopted similar acts in the past: the Nighthawks and Little Feat, to name two. What's surprising is the way the Destroyers have caught on nationally.
"Move It On Over" sounds like a record made by a bunch of friends for a bunch of friends, and the one-to-one feeling is infectious. When Thorogood refers to himself as "Lonesome George" on "Who Do You Love," you feel a pang of sympathy even though you've heard the same thing dozens of times before by dozens of different performers.
Instrumentals like "New Hawaiian Boogie" sound like the spirited jams they are instead of the filler that most such numbers generally turn out to be. Overall, the effect is one heck of a good time for all concerned.
Thorogood refers to his chosen material as "traditional rock'n'roll," but the songs on "Move It On Over" lean toward country and blues. T.J. Arnall's "Cocaine Blues" was a hit for Johnny Cash, and the title cut, which is currently getting solid area airplay, is an old Hank Williams tune. "So Much Trouble" is Brownie McGee's, "That Same Thing" Willie Dixon's, and Thorogoof finishes the album with two Elmore James compositions: "Baby Please Set a Date" and "New Hawaiian Boogie."
There's no question that Thorogood knows how to pick his tunes, but no matter how good the material is, it's not his. So the sense of the performer's true personality is missing. But he doesn't let that stop the show. What Thorogood and the Destroyers promise is good playing and an intimate relationship between music and audience, and they deliver on both counts.
They're not quite ready to be called "reluctant stars," as their record company labels them, but their act is solid and their delivery authentic. In today's rock'n'roll, those are qualities to be savored.
Opening tonight's bill at Maryland are the Allstars from Charlottesville -- not to be confused with either Levon Helm's RCO All-Stars or the Cheek-to-Cheek Allstars of local fame.
The Charlottesville sextet will undoubtedly be showcasing their recent album, "Tip Your Waitress." Like the Destroyers, the Allstars play with a bar-band swagger and a style founded in fundamental rock.
They lack the intensity of the Destroyers (their cover of Springsteen's "The Fever" pales in comparison to Southside Johnny's) and they have yet to attain a focused direction. Still, vocalist Lucile Schoettle is capable of belting out lyrics a la Janis Joplin ("Ninety-nine Pounds," "Tell Mama") or toning things down a bit for a more sultry feel ("My Love Will Never Die"). The Allstars aren't polished, but they attack their material with a verve that overshadows most of their shortcomings.