Ellwood City Review
Beaver County Times - May 28, 2006
By Scott Tady

"And now ... ladies and gentlemen ... rock guitar!" Donnie Iris exclaims near the beginning of his new CD, "Ellwood City."

If you forgot how uplifting a screaming guitar can sound, then check out Iris' comeback disc, three years in the making and due out in a few weeks.

C'mon, you didn't really expect Iris and his trusty band the Cruisers to mellow did you?

Naw, they're still rolling and rocking, kicking it old-school and experimenting with fresh sounds on the stylistically broad "Ellwood City," which the band premiered last Thursday at a listening party at The Wedge in Austintown, Ohio.

Opening track and aspiring radio single "Little Black Dress" is vintage Cruisers, with Mark Avsec laying down a shaggy guitar groove atop punchy percussion. As periodic hand claps strengthen the hook, King Cool amorously delivers lines like, "You give good leg in your little black dress."

The Cruisers' cover of Sam and Dave's "Soul Man," marches to a new beat with a drumline-like swagger. In a nod to two of Iris' biggest musical influences, "Love Messiah" sounds straight out of a Temptations revue, while "Love Me With the Light On" has an unmistakable Beatles bridge.

But "Ellwood City," named for Iris' childhood home, is no mere blast from the distant past.

The 5-minute-12-second "Just Go Tango" begins with a lockstep, drum-bass-guitar thump reminiscent of Coldplay and climaxes with spacey, sonic vocal layering written after Iris saw Icelandic buzz band Sigur Ros at the Byham Theater.

Iris' voice is still a marvel, whether nailing a few of his high-pitched screams or smoothly singing a few Spanish verses in "Just Go Tango," a song repeated in a 9-minute club mix at the end of the disc.

There's something for everyone to like in "Ellwood City."