One major disappointment on arriving in NYC was discovering these guys had played there the week before. I bought this latest effort as consolation.
Revisiting my old reviews I am struck by my wavering views of the band’s consistency. In many ways that sums up my response to this album
At its best, this album matches the grimy storytelling of ‘Dirty South’, especially on the title track and Used to be a Cop. But the remainder of the saga about a licentious preacher murdering his wife and running off with a pole-dancer is a mess and way too forced. The pivotal track The Fireplace Poker is meandering, unenergetic and just plain frustrating.
The band redeems itself, however, on the overtly country Cartoon Gold and the downright acidic Weakest Man:
Those two acoustic videos of Mike Cooley doing his thang highlight one of the three reasons I keep going back to the DBT well – his voice. It is irresisitable, as is the energy when the bang gets up a head of steam (the third prompt to purchase is the damn cover art which captures my eye like a bright shiny object).
Now, I just wish the band would show some goddamn discipline.
File under: Sexy at times, but often uncomfortable
Despite my delight in her previous release I was criminally slow in picking up this 2007 effort (I bought it as a present for my missus a couple of months ago).
I’d missed that this was, in effect, a collaborative album. Lavette is backed, and produced, by fellow reviewees Drive-By Truckers.
The hook-up works a treat, as the band provide a wonderfully soulful backing groove, while Lavette continues her interpretation of the tunes of others (this time it’s Willie Nelson, Elton John, John Hiatt, and Don Henley amongst others).
The theme here is world-weary, down-and-out laments saved from melancholia by Lavette’s feisty, pull-myself-up-ness.
Her voice is truly stunning and enveloping. She interprets a song better than almost anyone I can think of. I find myself both actively barracking for her survival, while a little intimidated by her power.
I am particularly struck by the Nelson number Somebody Pick Up My Pieces, and the ‘sitting at the bar in full wise old head-mode’ that is the John-Taupin tune Talking Old Soldiers:
The one song penned specifically for the album, Before the Money Came (The Battle of Bettye LaVette), is also a classic edition to the small ‘tales of the music biz’ sub-genre.
File under: It should be a crime not to own this
Posted in L
Tagged album, album review, Bettye LaVette, CD review, Don Henley, Drive-By Truckers, Elton John, John Hiatt, music, music review, Willie Nelson
Listening to this trio of releases from the DBTs has been a strange journey.
I was taken with the raucousness of album #1. The MOR #2 was pretty hit and miss. And this one is a curious middle ground.
The vibe is much more country than the predecessors – country of a mature, slow-paced nature. So we’re talking laments and tales of woe.
It doesn’t have the energy and aggression of #1, and I must say that was the DBT incarnation that got my blood flowing and my excitement levels up. Instead of picturing them in a dangerous bar (with chicken-wire) belting it out with abandon, now I see me seated, slowly sipping a beer and swaying along on a wave of their luscious tunes and entertaining tales.
So, I’m pretty happy with this one. Female lead vocals on three tracks is a nice addition, and it breaks up with it is a long albums (19 tracks in all).
If I’d never heard The Dirty South, I’d perhaps view this album as classic. So, give it a listen.
File under: Not so bright I’d need shades
The shift in style between the DBT’s Dirty South and this follow-up is quite stunning.
If wasn’t for the distinctive vocals I wouldn’t pick it as the same band. Gone is the grimy Southern rock and finely crafted tales. In its place is a much more mainstream, MOR rock approach. It’s a damn shame.
That previous release was a gem, while this could be a long list of bands (most of whom I wouldn’t cross the street to check out). Does the world really need another Tom Petty sound-alike outfit?
There are big bright glimmers of hope, however. Track 2, Gravity’s Gone is a fantastic piece of songwriting very well executed.
Likewise, Aftermath USA, is a classy variation on the “woke up this morning” standard. It certainly seems like there was quite a party around their place:
Those two tracks are the real exceptions on here, and coincidently the tunes where they most sound like their touring buddies The Hold Steady.
I am intrigued to give their next album another listen. I was convinced this was one of the bands I needed to see and embrace live, but now I’m a little less enthused (but only little).
File under: I’m leaning towards curse
This is the first album I have reviewed thus far that I only own in download form.
That seems rather inappropriate somehow, as these guys seem a long way removed from anything digital and new-fangled. This is rootsy Southern rock of the highest order.
This particular album is a thematically consistent collection. All the tracks tell tales of life down South, with a strong emphasis on the seedy and downtrodden. The trio of tracks about various crims dealing with a Sheriff of some renown (The Boys From Alabama, Cottonseed, and The Buford Stick all about Buford Pusser) are particularly captivating.
The band is happy to name-check prominent Southerners. Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Sam Phillips all get a run.
This some wonderful hybrid of Springsteen and Earle in terms of story-weaving, with a sleazy, bar-room feel to the triple guitar backing. The vitriol on Puttin‘ People on the Moon would do either aforementioned artists proud:
The one ‘happy’ tune on here, about the joys of car-racing (Daddy’s Cup) almost gets me craving a steering wheel.
It is unforgivable that I am yet to catch these guys live.
File under: Dirty but Beautiful South
Posted in D
Tagged album, album review, Carl Perkins, CD review, Drive-By Truckers, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, music, music review, Sam Phillips
This album (on vinyl no less) has been in my possession even less time than the Dead Weather effort. I picked it up online (from the mighty Bloodshot Records) along with Justin Townes Earle’s latest release.
These guys share a lot more in common with Justin’s pa Steve’s rockier work than with that of his progeny.
Their sound’s well and truly in the country-rock domain. This sounds like the album The Rolling Stones should have been making for the past 25 years or so.
It isn’t quite the southern-rock of The Black Crowes, as it has slightly less swagger (but only slightly). If anything, it’s probably most like the Drive-By Truckers when they turn on the mellow.
Lest this whole review be solely name dropping, I can tell you that there is a lot of slowhand guitar, plaintive vocals, and some decent slide and pedal.
If you wandered past a pub on a Thursday evening, or a Sunday afternoon and these guys were playing, pulling up a stool and a beer would be irresistable. They also go very well with muffin-baking and the first beer of one’s birthday (for that’s what I’ve been doing).
File under: A Brazilian that doesn’t hurt on bit
Posted in D, On Vinyl
Tagged album, album review, Bloodshot Records, CD review, Deadstring Brothers, Drive-By Truckers, music, music review, The Black Crowes, The Rolling Stones