Photo by Matthew Martin.
One of Little Rock's finest announced that it's calling it quits last night on MySpace. Here's what Smoke Up Johnny's
drummer Jon Rice wrote:
Smoke Up Johnny has decided to call it quits. It has been almost 4 years and we feel we had a good run. We broke up on good terms. No fists were thrown. I am going to put up a link to download what would have been the 2nd album. If anyone has any pictures of SUJ live, please send them to email@example.com. Thanks to everyone that came out to our shows and toasted a whiskey shot.
That, my friends, is a bummer. No local band did straight up rawk better. It was a simple formula, front man Alan Disaster told me back in 2007 when I profiled the band
: "We play good-time music. We play late at night. Everybody gets drunk."
Here's a bit more from that story:
But more than that, Smoke Up Johnny plays what Rice calls "pure rock 'n' roll," an unmitigated blast of all that's simple and holy about rock. In some ways, it's an ode to barroom guitar-rock gods like Thin Lizzy and ACDC (and lesser-known heroes like the Dictators and the Wipers). Lately, in pop music writ large, that's been a popular path, but the difference between an indie rocker gone ironic down the trail of guitar solos and long hair and an unabashed lover of George Thorogood always shows through.
But in other, more visceral ways, Smoke Up Johnny's “pure rock” stems from unbridled passion. The band members pour themselves into their shows. Everyone convulses at least a little. Everyone gets sweaty. Everyone smokes cigarettes dexterously. Late in the set, Disaster's voice always goes hoarse from hollering, which is usually when Smoke Up Johnny dives into a cover of O.V Wright's (and more famously Otis Redding's) “That's How Strong Love Is,” a soul classic the Rolling Stones and Iggy Pop each tried to muddy up. Smoke Up Johnny does them one better, ferreting out the song's deep-soul core in a sweetly shambolic mess-of-a-cover.
Travis McElroy, of Thick Syrup, which released the band's debut album in 2007, says that the freeload of the SUJ's follow-up will be available in "the coming weeks."