Smoky Greenwell and the Blues Gnus, Between Iraq and a Hard Place (Southland)

The latest from Frenchmen Street warriors Smoky Greenwell and the Blue Gnus will likely appeal on several levels. On one level, the handful of omnipresent covers (“Key to the Highway,” “One Way Out”) are executed well enough to appeal to weekend revelers looking for anything familiar and dance friendly. But deeper than that, where the Gnus really excel is in their enchanting chemistry that produces some exhilarating, off-the-chart jamming between harmonica hellion Greenwell and guitarists Mark Penton (slide) and Greg Hodges, who frequently recall the gods of southern rock. Greenwell and former Allman Brother Johnny Neel wrote the album’s best tracks, the John Lee Hooker turbo-charged “Back to the Boogie” and “Goin’ Uptown,” which finds Greenwell venturing off on a mind-tripping tear. No doubt the shuffling, clever word-play title track is poised to be the local hit as Greenwell questions why our nation dumps billions into a Middle Eastern sinkhole while Louisiana’s problems are left unresolved. It’s too bad there aren’t more songs like this because one of these days that alleged DC brain trust might just get the message.