Well, Izzy Stradlin
sure didn't spend the five and a half years between his first two solo records rethinking his music. 117 Degrees picks up right where The Ju Ju Hounds left off, offering a set of 14 bluesy hard rockers in the vein of Chuck Berry
, the Stones
, the Faces
and, yes, Guns N' Roses
. There are no surprises, in other words. There also isn't anything quite as good as his underappreciated classic-in-waiting "Shuffle It All," but 117 Degrees rocks harder than most roots-rock albums of the late '90s. And Stradlin
is a roots-rocker by this point. None of his contemporaries are even trying for this kind of unassuming, straightforward, well-crafted hard rock, and by pursuing this direction so doggedly (he even covers Berry's "Memphis"), he sounds like a throwback to another era, much like all the Americana bands of the late '90s. His music sounds fresher than many of those roots-rockers because he just wants to play, not preserve heritage, but the ironic thing is when he's on, he's a better songwriter than almost any of them. He has his down moments on the album, but songs like "Ain't It a Bitch" and "Here Before You" make up for the weaknesses. Ultimately, there's no good reason why it took Stradlin
so long to deliver a follow-up other than that he really seems to have no contact with the outside world, but that's part of his charm and part of the reason why 117 Degrees is endearing despite its faults.