Amidst the storm of internet reaction the day after the elections last month, I received an email from Todd Partridge, frontman for Auburn, Iowa band King of the Tramps, with the download for their latest album. He said, “It’s an apolitical protest and love record perfect for a day like today.”
Cumplir con el Diablo, which, according to the band, translates to “meet the devil,” is another collection of their aptly named “whiskey gospel” — an amalgam of blues and rock mined by Southern giants like The Allman Brothers, refined by The Black Crowes and finally minted by King of the Tramps. On the record, King of the Tramps offers anthemic songs with a mixture of swagger, attitude and honest-to-goodness road-seasoned grooves that I usually have to dig deeper in my record collection to find, and even further back in the dusty recesses of my memory.
Partridge, who also serves as the band’s lyricist, has a small-town perspective that reminds me of my own — growing up in a town with nothing much going on but drinking and raising a little hell. In his raucous tribute to this lifestyle, “Last Man Standing,” he sings “Spent half of my life in South Sac County, with that barbed wire and ditch weed all around me.”
The best way to listen to this record is by spinning the transparent vinyl version — the turntable needle tracing the spiral scratch recreates the heat of the recording sessions. The minimalist cover art looks great at 12 inches, too. It’s nice to have the lyric sheet handy while it spins. The only bummer is that the digital bonus track, “89 Cutlass” — a love song to a first car — isn’t on it.
I haven’t heard an album that so perfectly paints the pent-up frustrations of the Midwest since Mellencamp’s 1985 album Scarecrow. “I’m Iowa honest, not Iowa nice,” Partridge shouts in “Last Man Standing” and that is the overall M.O. for Cumplir con el Diablo. It’s an album that is starkly honest with no agenda other than to represent the heart and soul of small town Iowa life.
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 211.