Face it: Joe Russell is one of the best rock vocalists to come out of southeast Iowa in the last 30 years, and Nick Knedler's mastery of the rock guitar is second to none.
Russell and Knedler front rock band Stars In Toledo: drummer Carlos Capdevila and bassman Daryl Bond provide the solid bones for them to flesh out while guitarslinger Johnny Gram's solid, surging chords and riffs skin it all back.
Stars In Toledo headlines the Steamboat Days "Wet Your Whistle" party on June 1 at Mississippin' Landing and opens the main stage on June 16.
Their self-titled CD contains 12 cuts, all of them bursting at the seams with intense energy, like muscle-bound beach dudes — there's plenty of heavy lifting by this quasi-metal power rock band. If you liked the hairy ’80s (one of rock radio's finest decades), Stars In Toledo will bring you back to your lost youth.
At times, as on "Without You Here," Russell is strongly reminiscent of one of rock's older and weirder vocalists, Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull — if Anderson and Cream's Jack Bruce had a love child.
The first cut, "Take it to the Breakdown," is a guitar mashup that clearly demonstrates that Russell's belt power is off the meter like Robert Plant and David Lee Roth and Joe Cocker.
Cut No. 2, "Hold On," sounds a bit like Tom Petty got Steve Perry to do the lead vocal and Styx to back everyone up.
"Mavericks" features a dandy guitar strut backline that frees Knedler to show off his speed and mastery.
"Without You Here" is — oh, just go to the party and see — and hear — for yourselves.
Stars In Toledo, Saturday at The Washington. Tickets are $8 at the door, also available at Weird Harold's.
Modern rock band Silent Redemption from Dubuque opens the show at 8 p.m., doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are available online at https://app.tikly.co/thewashington.