Martin Zellar – Rooster Crow
Martin Zellar and the Hardways
Owen Lee Recordings
By Grant Britt
Martin Zellar’s childhood dream was to drive the Zamboni in his local hockey arena. As head Gear Daddy in the band he fronted in the early ‘80s, he got to live his dream, in song anyway, with the band’s biggest hit, “I Wanna Drive the Zamboni.” Zellar addresses more grown up topics on Rooster Crow, his first album in 10 years, with his current band the Hardways. Released on his own label, Owen Lee Records, named for his youngest son, Crow finds Zellar more introspective than on his previous solo and ensemble work.
“Running on Pure Fear” the song Zellar has picked as his single, is an uncanny echo of Tom Petty. “I’m a long way from OK …. I ain’t thinking clear,” he admits, “runnin’ on pure fear.” Accompanied on dobro by Dixie Chick daddy/ steel guitarist /producer Lloyd Maines, Zellar advises his listeners to “Laugh when you can/ let it out when you cry,” on the Dylanesque “Give & Take( All The love That You Can.)”
“Took The Poison,” a duet with Kelly Willis, is not as much honky garage sounding as the Gear Daddies, but still possess plenty of twang with the aid of Austin –based Soulhat frontman Kevin McKinney’s guitar.
Zellar admits that the songs on this new album reflected “a pretty terrible period of my life,” saying publicly that he wasn’t sure it was a story he wanted to share “Took the poison/took the fall/ hit bottom, now I’m trying to crawl /up from the mess I made of my life,” he confesses on “Took the Poison.” The other songs share the same melancholy vibe, but despite the somber tone, it’s not a record to get drunk and shoot yourself to. There’s hope for redemption in the songs and, based on this outing, in Zellar’s career. Here’s hoping the gears keep turning for this big daddy and his country/garage machine.