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Hits and misses in local music

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Pat "P.J." O'Connell spent more than enough quality musical time in the Triangle in the '80s and '90s, most notably with his pop/rock outfit The Flying Pigs, to earn lifetime "Homebrew" eligibility. These days he lives in Cape Cod with his wife and hangs out with the guys from NRBQ and their more-pop-leaning kindred spirits, the Incredible Casuals. With friends like that, who needs anemones? (Sorry, just a little Cape Cod seaside humor.) Occasionally, O'Connell even gets to make records with them--enter Happy Go Lucky, which features NRBQ and special guest T-Bone Wolk as his backing band. It's all pretty loose and laid-back, sounding like, not surprisingly, NRBQ fronted by someone whose last name isn't Adams or Spampinato.

The album surrounds solid O'Connell originals with one contribution each from Terry Adams, the Brothers Spampinato, and the Casuals' gifted Chandler Travis, as well as a handful of quirky, obscure covers--most of those in a rockabilly/early-rock vein, and most, no doubt, excavated from NRBQ drummer Tom Ardolino's gallery-of-nuggets record collection. Joey Spampinato's "I Can't Stop Thinkin' About You" is a perfect little pop song, while "The Dough Got Low" reflects Adams' enviable ability to blend Tin Pan Alley and carnival midway. One of the covers, Milt Gabler's "Where'd You Go Last Night" (a primal rocker recorded by Bill Haley & the Comets), gets two airings, including an album-capping reprise. O'Connell's "Mrs. Jerk," sounding like a decaffeinated Young Fresh Fellows, is especially winning, and a couple of his other tunes, "Should Have Figured" and "Station Blues," suggest what Stiff Records might have sounded like had it been based in New England instead of Olde England.

We sure enough miss O'Connell here in the Triangle, but the sea air, and the ace studio companionship, certainly seem to agree with him.

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