TRACKING: Poppa’s Kitchen – “Just So You Know”

SOUNDS LIKE: Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: Because it answers the “whatever happened to” question about…you know what, listen to the song first, then we’ll tell you who sings it. Trust us, it’s good.

Ask anyone to name the cast members of Fast Times at Ridgemont High and folks will immediately come up with Phoebe Cates (especially if they’re dudes), Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Judge Reinhold. Maybe the film scholars will give you Forest Whitaker or even the late, great Vincent Schiavelli. Ask who played Mike Damone, however, and you might get people fumbling for their phones to search IMDB.

That actor’s name is Bob Romanus. While he always considered himself a musician more than an actor, Romanus continued acting after Fast Times (even reprising the Damone character for a recent episode of “Family Guy”), and also owns a coffee shop in North Hollywood. (And of course we drop him as a reference every time we write about Blondie.)

He’s also got a heck of a roots rock band, Poppa’s Kitchen, a collaboration with fellow L.A. musician Steve Feldman. The duo has released eight albums and the latest, Just So You Know, is the best of the bunch.

The title tracks gives a great overall feel of the record, a quiet, dirty country tune that wouldn’t feel out of place on a later Johnny Cash record. “I’ve been out there chasin’ something, beyond fame, beyond wealth,” sings Romanus in his gruff, country-fried-Leonard-Cohen singing voice, as the song ambles pleasantly behind him. As Damone himself might say, he’s got the “magnetism of Robin Zander and the charisma of Rick Neilson.” Yes, Damone was talking about Cheap Trick, but still, the quote applies.