Sound — 7
It's likely that a lot of you will go into listening to the self-titled debut album from Crooked X with some valuable bio information: These band members were signed to a major record label at the age of 14. Even though you might want to go into reviewing an album without any bias, you can't ever disregard the fact that this is a group of young guys that are musically leaps and bounds ahead of most of their fellow teenagers. After coming in 2nd place on the CBS Early Show's Living Room Live segment, mega-manager Doc McGhee began to usher the kids into a veritable whirlwind of publicity (featured song on the video game Rock Band, a reality show on MTV, and lots of talk show appearances). So does that all equal a quality debut album? Crooked X's songwriting might still fall short of most of their 20-something-and-older peers, but their debut album shows a lot of promise. For Rock Band video game players, you may already have heard the tracks Nightmare or Rock N' Roll Dream as part of the playlist. These tracks are a fairly good indication of what you'll hear on the majority of the album, namely good ol' bluesy rock. Vocalist/guitarist Forrest French, lead guitarist Jesse Cooper, bassist Josh McDowell, and drummer Boomer Simpson are a group of competent musicians, and there is no shortage of musical chemistry. There might not be a whole lot of originality yet and the songs do recall quite a few other bands, but the 10-track CD is still quite likeable. Crooked X is at it's best when it delivers grooving lead guitar lines, which are most prevalent in the tracks Gone, Nail in the Coffin, and the Zakk Wylde-like Lost Control. The band definitely knows how to kick a song off, and the intros always tend to be the best parts of their compositions. While the remaining verses and choruses are not bad by any means, they do tend to feel like your basic power chord-driven rock tracks. The guitar team of Cooper/French are solid players, and as they continue to develop their talents, we're likely to hear some insanely good riffs in time.
Lyrics — 6
Much like the music, the lyrical department is still a work in progress. It's hard to be too rough on such young guys, but there are clichs galore on the debut album. You probably have an inkling of what the songs are about with titles like Rock N' Roll Dream (I had a rock and roll dream and I was the star; I went around the world; Playin' my guitar) or Adrenaline (Fifteen hundred pounds of adrenaline; Gonna ride this rocket ship until I win), and you're likely correct in the assessment. If you have little tolerance for superficial lyrics that have been done over and over (even if young teenagers are the composers), you will likely have little patience for Crooked X's debut record.
Overall Impression — 7
Fun is an appropriate description for Crooked X's music, which does feature a few very catchy tracks. The guitar work is reminiscent of everyone from Zakk Wylde to John Sykes to a tiny bit of Kirk Hammett, and this is a band that just needs to come into its own with a little time. If anything, Crooked X will hopefully prove to kids that dedication, practice, and a passion for music can eventually pay off in a big way.