It's always nice to find an honest-to-gosh heartland rock 'n' roll band with something on its mind other than mindless populism. The Rainmakers, a feisty and fairly smart quartet out of Kansas City, certainly fit that bill.
At that working-class joint the Palomino on Sunday night, the Rainmakers were up to their usual tricks--singing about religion ("Let My People Go-Go"), politics, shoddy workmanship, sin, nuclear war ("Tornado of Love," the title track of the group's new sophomore album) and neighbors who should mind their own business.
Mind you, cocky singer-songwriter Bob Walkenhorst is more than capable of sounding self-righteous and shrill (both vocally and lyrically). And if John Fogerty is the obvious model for the group's raucous, rootsy sound, there's also much of the suspicious post-punk irony of Stan Ridgway in Walkenhorst's tone, though not nearly as subtle. The strings of tongue-in-cheek anthems can be funny at first, grating in large doses.
Luckily, Walkenhorst has enough genuine swagger to carry much of this off live. And a couple of more moody and contemplative tracks from the new album showed this crank even capable of personal sentiment.