New York Music Daily

Global Music With a New York Edge

Tag: knoxville girls band

JD Wilkes Brings One of His Great Bands to the Knitting Factory

Isn’t it cool when a band lives up to the name they have the balls to call themselves? From the early zeros through about the turn of the past decade, high-voltage Nashville gothic band the Legendary Shack Shakers became a cult favorite and a popular draw on the midsize club circuit. Lately frontman JD Wilkes, one of the real mavens of punk blues and Americana, has concentrated on his other, more blues-oriented project the Dirt Daubers. Wilkes’ latest Cheetah Chrome-produced recording, Wild Moon, features that appropriately named band (a dirt dauber is a particularly vicious wasp native to the Bible Belt), but most recently he’s been back with the Legendary Shack Shakers for a couple of tours, with an upcoming show on 9/11 at around 10 at the Knitting Factory. Tix are $14.

The new Dirt Daubers album – which other than a single Youtube clip of the title track, isn’t due out til Sept 24 – opens with a brief, brisk instrumental, Rod Hamdallah’s frenetic guitar intertwining with Wilkes’ Little Walter-style chromatic harp. Wilkes’ wife Jessica sings the swinging, snarling, noir gutter blues Apples & Oranges, with its Iggy Pop references and vernacular lyrics:

You can follow me down, hold my feet to the fire
Turn my pockets inside out
You know I’m in for a penny, down for a pound …
I’m taking my debts to the afterlife

With its screaming, bent-note Hamdallah guitar and twisted fire-and-brimstone imagery, the album’s title track continues in a careening noir blues vein. Drive brings to mind New York gutter blues band Knoxville Girls, but with better production values, another droll Iggy quote and a brief, gritty Wurlitzer solo from the frontman. His wife sings the shuffling No Rest for the Wicked, her seductive lyric contrasting with all the creepy guitar chromatics.

Wilkes’ low, haphazard minor-key piano adds to the doomed ambience on the suicide ballad No More My Love. Angel Crown brings to mind early Jon Spencer in simmering, low-key mode, with a creepy lyric about a dead baby underscored by echoey chromatic harp and Hamdallah’s broodingly rustic series of chords. Let It Fly is much the same but faster, followed by the torchy, lurid Clairy Browne-ish shuffle You Know I Love You, with more of that red-neon piano and smoky baritone sax from Tom Waits sideman Ralph Carney.

The macabre stomp Hidey Hole is the album’s creepiest track – what’s down in that hidey hole, anyway? – an appropriate place for Hamdallah to fire off his most memorable, menacing guitar solo. Throughout the album, there’s more than a hint of hypnotically unwinding Mississippi hill country blues, especially on Don’t Thrill Me No More, which is basically a long, moody one-chord jam.

River Song brings back a punk blues bounce, like a more lo-fi take on what Dylan did on Love & Theft. The album winds up with God Fearing People, which sounds like Smokestack Lightning at triplespeed. Dark, offhandedly savage, lo-fi electric blues doesn’t get any better than this. It wouldn’t be out of the question to hope for some of this stuff at Wilkes’ show at the Knit with his old band.

The Clear Plastic Masks Return to Brooklyn With a Killer New Album

Nashville-based soul-punk band the Clear Plastic Masks have a wryly tuneful, guitarishly slashing new album, Being There – streaming here – and a couple of shows at the Music Hall of Williamsburg at 9 PM on Sept 10 and 11. They’re opening for the similar White Denim; it’s a bill where the opener is bound to upstage the headliner. General admission is $20; there’s also a 9/12 show but it’s sold out. It’s a homecoming of sorts from CPM, who first came together in Brooklyn before heading south.

The two bands share influences – classic 60s soul, garage rock and psychedelia –  but CPM do all those styles consistently better. White Denim is one of those bands that will hit one out of the park once in awhile and as a result can be frustrating while you wait for them to pull it together: maybe they should take a listen to their tourmates’ latest release. In the spirit of 60s vinyl singles, CPM like short songs: most of everything here clocks in at around three minutes.

The opening track, In Case You Forgot winds haphazardly through an oldschool 60s soul tune, Matt Menold and Andrew Katz’s guitars bending and tremolopicking as the rhythm section – bassist Eddy DuQuesne and drummer Charlie Garmendia – veers all over the place, bringing to mind mid-80s post-Velvets bands like That Petrol Emotion. The second track, Outcast looks back to what the mid-60s Stones did with Bobby Womack, a period-perfect take on what enthusiastically ambitious British hippies could springboard from a vintage Memphis soul tune. The coy Baby Come On veers back and forth between a shimmery, summery soul ballad and anguished clusters of guitar: it brings to mind two late 90s/early zeros New York bands with an aptitude for classic soul, White Hassle and Douce Gimlet.

Pegasus in Glue wraps dancing Syd Barrett-influenced fuzztone garage psych around a woozy interlude kicked off with a droll Hendrix quote. The slowly swaying Aliens is a grimly funny number set to a slow, catchy gospel-rock tune: the creepy ending caps off the storyline perfectly. A parable about the lure and dangers of religion, maybe?

So Real kicks off as a stomping fuzztone strut, then the band makes half-baked Link Wray out of it, then picks it up again: again, Katz’s tongue-in-cheek, surrealist lyrics and deadpan cat-ate-the-canary vocals draw comparisons to White Hassle’s Marcellus Hall. Interestingly, the album’s best and darkest song, Dos Cobras turns out to be an instrumental, a mashup of Steve Wynn southwestern gothic, organ surf and the early Zombies.

Hungry Cup, a piano-and-vocal ballad, is the album’s weirdest moment, told from the point of view of a girl about to throw up her hands and give up on a guy who can’t pull his act together. It might be a very thinly veiled broadside directed at posers new to Notbrooklyn (i.e. gentrified white areas of formerly ethnically and economically diverse Brooklyn), a mashup of late 60s Stones, Vanilla Fudge and lo-fi swamp-rockers like Knoxville Girls. The album winds up with a couple of slow 6/8 numbers: When the Nightmare Comes, which sounds like the Libertines taking a stab at a Hendrix-style take on soul music, and Working Girl, which could be a shout-out to whores in general, to girls on the train during rush hour, or both. That’s one of this band’s strongest suits: you never really know where they’re coming from, and they have a lot of fun keeping you guessing.

Stonesy Stoner Songs and a Bowery Electric Show from 7horse

7horse are a surreal stoner bar band – imagine a more trad version of the Black Keys after a couple bong hits of good hash. This band’s music is less stoned than it is high. They’re at Bowery Electric on July 9 at 7:30ish for $12.

Their new album Songs for a Voodoo Wedding is streaming at the band’s site. The opening track, Carousel Bar works an open-tuned Stonesy riff for all it’s worth – the bass doesn’t even come in until after the first chorus. “Had a ringside seat, was all you could eat, but you never got out of the car,” lead singer Phil Leavitt reminds, “I could sit right here for a hundred years rolling in the Carousel Bar.” That pretty much explains what this band is all about.

Meth Lab Zoso Sticker is another open-tuned, Stonesy, more or less one-chord jam, this one a slide-driven blues with an even stranger lyric. Flying High (With No ID) reaches for a Sticky Fingers-era take on oldschool soul, an uneasily amusing scenario about a guy who seems to be tripping in the airport and then on the flight. Imagine being on acid and having to deal with Homeland Security – it would be impossible not to have a laughing fit.

Headhunter Blues centers around a funny lyrical riff from baseball slang, and a romping post Chuck Berry tune that could be the Bottle Rockets (or the Stones, for that matter) with no bass. Long Way has a restless, minor-key, vintage Stooges menace, both musically and lyrically. Please Come On Home has a darkly shuffling hillbilly boogie vibe that recalls bands like the Gun Club and the Sideshow Tragedy. The funniest and also the most punk song here is I Know the Meaning of Rock N Roll: it’s totally mid-70s Detroit.

On the 4th of July brings back a Stonesy pulse: it seems to be a sly, surreal swipe at patriotism. So Old Fashioned blends LES punk blues with catchy Dolls glam, a shout-out to an “ancient recipe” that never fails to hit the spot. Some MF seems to be a spoof of hip-hop; the album’s longest track, Before the Flood strings together a bunch of old blues aphorisms over a skeletal Smokestack Lightning-style vamp. The final cut is the oldtimey A Friend in Weed, which is kind of obvious, but also unquestionably true. Most of these songs don’t reference anything after about 1973: aside from the strange absence of bass in places, this album could have been made then and would have earned the band plenty of road gigs or a maybe even a spot opening for somebody like Bob Seger or REO Speedwagon back when both of those acts were actually pretty decent.

Smart, Edgy Swamp Rock and Country Blues from Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs

Holly Golightly & the Brokeoffs – that’s retro rock icon Holly Golightly and Lawyer Dave – careen through the same swampy, loosely wired, punked-out country blues muck as the Gun Club and Knoxville Girls. This primitive, sometimes feral, lo-fi stuff is great fun. Most of the songs on thei duo’s new album Sunday Run Me Over are originals, although they also do a surprisingly elegant, slightly noir-tinged version of the Davis Sisters’ 1953 country classic I’ve Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know About Him, along with an amusingly sarcastic cover of Hard to Be Humble, Mac Davis’ dubious attempt to write an outlaw country song. And the best song here is We Need a Whole Lot Less of Jesus and a Lot More Rock N Roll, an offhandedly savage reworking of the Ramey Family’s country gospel standard We Need a Whole Lot More Jesus. And as funny and vicious as it is – you see, they’re running out of cash up in heaven, which is why the church needs so much of it – the music is good too, with resonator guitar and fiddle adding to the rustic mix.

Several tracks, starting with the opening one, Goddamn Holy Roll, have a Mississippi hill country tinge, plus tasty, echoey slide guitar leads and exuberant guy/girl vocals. This particular one’s basically a one-chord jam, but they make it interesting. They Say takes a Fred McDowell style oldtime delta blues riff, stomps on it and rocks it out. Tank takes that hill country vibe and adds layers after tasty layer of guitar: lots of open-tuned slide work, and even a repeater-box track pulsing distantly in the mix. Likewise, they build Goodnight from a stripped-down, pissed-off, minor-key country waltz to a big anthem with layer after layer of swaying, clanging, ringing guitar lines.

Holly’s coy vocals take on a bit of an Amy Allison tinge on the country song Turn Around, while Hand in Hand blends Knoxville Girls-style swampy reverb rock with a slow Stonesy sway. They folow that with The Future’s Here, a surreal, absolutely spot-on early 50s-style hillbilly boogie with futuristic lyrics.The final track is the dirty, bluesy, JSBX-ish This Shit Is Gold; there’s also the lighthearted singalong One for the Road, an Irish-flavored drinking song with banjo. The album is out on Oct 9 from Transdreamer; the band is at Rock Shop tonight, Oct 6 at 10 for $10 and then at the big room at the Rockwood on the 8th at 9:30 for an extra two bucks.

Twin Peaks Music from Dimestore Dance Band at Zirzamin

Back in the mid-zeros, Dimestore Dance Band were one of the two or three best bands in the scene centered around Tonic, the late, lamented Lower East Side hotspot for improvised music. When Tonic closed in 2006, Dimestore – guitarist Jack Martin, bassist Jude Webre and drummer Scott Jarvis – pretty much closed their doors as well. Since then, Martin and Webre have played together sporadically as a duo. Last night at Zirzamin, the two had a new drummer, who stepped in tersely and smartly, and in a lot of ways they sounded better than ever. The music’s curves are smoother, its rough edges more jagged, and Martin’s guitar playing just gets darker and more intense. They’ve never been more noir, or more fascinating to watch.

Martin, unlike a lot of other virtuoso guitarslingers, is not a chameleonic player. Steeped in gypsy jazz, country blues and ragtime, there’s often a jaunty lilt to his playing, but it’s impossible to imagine the former lead axeman of popular swamp rockers Knoxville Girls playing anything blithely all the way through. His sound is distinctive, full of irascible slides, brightly hopeful bent notes and eerie, ringing chromatics: rich with irony, sometimes exasperation, bitterness or outright anguish, but with an irrepressible joie de vivre peeking defiantly from behind the clouds. It’s the personification of noir: Twin Peaks music with a sprightly swing bounce.

Their opening tune set the tone for about half of what they played, a matter-of-factly swinging number loaded with biting chromatics that gave it a pervasive sense of unease, Webre’s tensely stalking bassline underscoring that. Martin made his way methodically into an unexpectedly unhinged, atonal interlude that he suddenly backed away from, as Webre kept a steady pace through the danger zone. The most haunting song of the night was a slow, slinky, smoky, chromatic theme that built from morose allusiveness to a furtively steady prowl, Martin again backing away to let Webre’s moody resolve hold the course, the swirls of the cymbals upping the ante as the song wound out. Then they flipped the script with an unexpectedly upbeat groove that added all kinds of spiny bits to a playful, peekaboo vintage soul/funk melody. From there they went into wryly shuffling western swing as Django might have done it, then back to the noir with a mysterious southwestern gothic bolero over a sinister garage rock bassline. Martin spiraled, brooding and sparse over it, Webre’s ominously tiptoeing bassline signaling a series of even more ominous spaghetti western chords from Martin, working up to a tricky false ending and then back to the suspenseful wee-hours desert chill. It would have made a standout track on a vintage-era Friends of Dean Martinez album.

They brought back the devious swing with the most gypsyish tune of the night, warped Django building to a coy fanfare on the turnaround, then did another bolero with a bit of skronk and latin soul, Martin adding his signature passing tones and chromatics to darken it unexpectedly: the clouds sweeping in over Andalucia. From there the cinematics grew more spare, Webre playing tense octaves over stately cymbal crashes as Martin skirted the melody, then finally brought it back with a gypsyish unresolve. Their final two numbers were a sultry, slow gypsy groove that turned creepy and cinematic, Martin picking up with an unrestrained menace as it wound up, and then a briskly devious blend of gypsy jazz and garage rock, Martin hinting at the end that they’d make yet another hairpin turn into glistening greyscale shadows…but the show was over. Dimestore Dance Band’s next show is at Zebulon at 9 PM on August 2 with another first-rate noir guitarist, Ben Von Wildenhaus and his band, who are playing their farewell New York show.