Johnny Wells, Alabama Thunderpussy's new singer, has helped make Fulton Hill the band's strongest album to date. Wells combines the best qualities of Axl Rose, Chris Robinson, Phil Anselmo and Gary Floyd (from Sister Double Happiness and the Dicks) into a powerful, raw-throated roar. He's also got the redneck attitude -- in spades -- that's always underpinned ATP's best work.
On Fulton Hill, the band retreats a little from the ultraheavy riffage of 2002's Staring at the Divine, returning to the Skynyrd-on-steroids boogie-pummel of 2000's Constellation. The opening instrumental, "Such Is Life," grinds like a gravel truck heading up a mountain in low gear. "Three Stars" and "Alone Again" are pure Southern-rock melodrama, the kind of songs the Black Crowes used to write, but with extra Eyehategod guitar tone. Female background vocals and bluesy piano add immeasurable emotional heft. And just in case anybody thinks ATP has gone soft, "Lunar Eclipse" sports the heaviest riff, and the nastiest gut-rumbling vocals, since Tad's classic Salt Lick EP.