STRANGE HIGHWAYS - “Mooncrushed” - (2024, Philadelphia, PA) -

2022 was a pretty good year for me in that I didn’t have any major medical issues. Not bad, considering that ‘21, ‘23 and especially ‘24 (so far) have been fraught with peril. Double deuces also saw the release of the debut album by Philly band STRANGE HIGHWAYS. Originally brought to my attention by the all-wise metal guru, Dave Benzotti, the HIGHWAY guys showed what kind of balls-out rawkin’ you can do with a trio & how you can evoke the best of hard rockin’ years past while still making a modern masterpiece.


Well, as I hinted at, 2024 has been a proverbial shit show for me health wise. I’m hoping and believing I see a turnaround in the cards and it may be heralded by the 2nd STRANGE HIGHWAYS album, “Mooncrushed.”


I know you’ve heard of the dreaded sophomore slump before but have no fear, friends & neighbors. The slump had 2 chances here, slim & none and slim just left town on the fastest horse around!


Right off the bat is “Atomic Rebel.” Now, how can you go wrong with a song title like that?! Truth is, what is. Suiting their band name, brothers Marco (guitar/vox/keys) & Daniel (bass/vox) joined by Adam Gresko (drums) hit the HIGHWAY hard! Taking a page out of HEEP’s “Easy Livin’” riffin’, this is an album opener! At 1:40, the guys take it down to a midpaced jaunt that’ll rip your spine out. Gresko’s drumming is insane here & the vocals remind me of STRAY DOG’s Snuffy Walden. Killer!


“Dead Creeps” may not be creepy, but it’s a midpaced pounder that’s a bit doomy. Especially interesting here are the vocals, which actually remind me of a southern rawk version of the late Ben Orr. The orchestral-sounding guitars complete the coolness.


Next up is “Midnight Queen.” It’s great to hear how this band can write an upbeat, rocking, partying type number that sounds anything but cliched. They put the “genuine” stamp right on top everything they do, right down to the Ed King-like guitar solo.


It’s with the title cut that we really hear STRANGE HIGHWAYS flex their collective doom muscles. There’s a bit of a nod to the Sab 4 in the opening section here. Then, at 3:22 they move and groove with bass work by Daniel that is, in a word, pillaging. Emotive harmony vox & an exploratory alt-picking guitar solo by Marco serve up a delicious 6:42-course meal. The cherry on top is the magical melodic coda. Listen to the laid-back, country-styled picking at 5:39!


“What’re You Gonna Do.” Seriously, what’re you gonna do other than put this song on repeat for at least a handful of times?! This one carries the vibe of late 60’s/early 70’s rock into the current day. The drums here are a tribal continuum and the way the vocals follow the guitar line is brilliant. And that “travelin’” lead guitar. Shades of HOT TUNA’s Jorma right there.


I looked at the time of “Hickory Way” (2:20) as well as its title and thought I might be in for an acoustic interlude. Not ones to do the expected, however, these STRANGE boys load up a short sharp shock of super-catchy hard rock that packs a helluva wallop, even with its short duration.


“Draggin Blues” lets the iron come down with an Iommian weight. But also similar to Father Tony, S.H. institute yet another well-placed rhythm shift before lurching back into doomy territory. The gorgeous solo by Marco illustrates that while the riffs may be slow here, they never lose da blues! I think of bands like LEAFHOUND & SIR LORD BALTIMORE and smile.


Finally this beautiful heavy text reaches a conclusion with the 7+ minute “Sermon.” It’s a brooding, chugging homily to heaviness that features some engaging, conversational guitar soloing at 5:30. The band then spirals to the ending, borne on killer descending harmony lines.


As I alluded to earlier, STRANGE HIGHWAYS debut effort pointed up what was a pretty positive year for me in 2022. While THIS time around the sun has been a lot more challenging for me so far, I think “Mooncrushed” may be just the prescription I need to fuel my recovery.



Marco Newsome - guitar/vocals/keyboards

Daniel Newsome - bass/vocals

Adam Gresko - drums/percussion


-Ray Dorsey