by Tom Hallett
“By the way, I don’t believe any of that shit.” Nice line. Comes right near the end of a lil’ blues number called “Me And The Devil” (yep, the Robert Johnson cut), as laid down by the cats I’ll be reviewing in this week’s column. But before we dive into the whos, wheres, whats, and whyfores, let’s do us some qualifyin’, classifyin’ an’ clarifyin’, eh?
Don’t fret, boogie chillun: I’m not gonna spin off into one of my famous “Clapton is the Devil incarnate” rants here. God (an’ mebbe even de debbil hisself) knows I’ve wasted enough breath in stale bars drinkin’ even staler beers over THAT particular subject. Suffice it to say that I’ve never been overly impressed by what I like to call “Got-no-reason-to-but-still-think-I-do-White-Boy Blues,” awright? Jonny Lang? Phew! You get the point.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Go ahead and play the blues if it’ll
make you happy” — Homer Simpson
SONG OF THE WEEK: “Blues in My Bottle” —
to say there aren’t a whole passel of white boys out there who can/could
play dem ole blues like nobody’s bidness, either, but frankly I’ve
never felt the pain, had my hackles rise or lost myself in a past I never saw
but somehow still feel while listenin’ to some lard-ass from the ‘burbs
caterwaul about how rough an’ tough his daily existence is/was/is going
to be. The fact remains that when he puts his thousand dollar guitar back into
its fine black case an’ hops into his ’98 Ford Explorer he’s
goin’ home to—er—a home. Not havin’ a home? Now THAT’S
a reason to sing de blues, brudder.
Anyhow, all of this is really just my roundabout way of sayin’
that I don’t classify the fellas whose CD I’m reviewing this week
with them fake-ass, lily-livered, phony white boy blues fuckaroos, OK? These
dudes are the kind of guys you’ll find playin’ for tips an’
warm tap beers at a loveable local dive (Oh yeah—you CAN! Cuz they jam
out at THE VIKING BAR in Minneapolis quite frequently! [Publisher’s
Note: It would be an unpardonable insult to talk about the blues and the Viking
Bar and not mention Blue Mondays and Willie Murphy. Every Monday from 7 to 10
p.m. Murphy institutionalizes, canonizes and personifies the blues and early
rock and roll. He is great. We are grateful.] Stop by an’ check ’em
out—along with a whole who’s who in local blues-holla-rag-n’-rolla
stuff ...), guys whose faces spell out the years, dirty streets an’ broken
dreams that follow them around like a shadow. An’ if ya think I’m
jivin’ ya, just stroll into the Viking—or one of the other down-to-earth,
no-bullshit joints they frequent around town—an’ check ‘em
out fo’ yo’self.
My own memories of The Viking Bar are hazy at best, but one of my faves includes
an evening with Indiana’s Roach Brothers (who were up for a three-day
or so run and just kinda got roped into playin’ a set at The Viking—hella
good time tho’), members of The Front Porch Swingin’ Liquor Pigs
and about twelve guests who just HAD to squeeze onto that minuscule stage and
belt out their own musical offerins’. The devil didn’t come up much
during our conversation that night, but then neither did God, Gandi, Phil Collins
or the art of rubber band collecting. Mebbe the blues CAN be fun—both
to play an’ to lissen to, long as ya don’t fergit where it came
from an’ what it all really means.
Thing is, there wasn’t a person on that stage or in that crowded room
who didn’t have a ball, and there were more genres of music pourin’
into our ears than a night on ol’ REV 105—rock, pop, blues, country,
jazz, hillbilly thrash an’ probably a few even I couldn’t dream
up monikers for. An’ that night, those people, that bar, that music and
those memories, those are what make this band stand out, shine and more than
qualified for a bit o’ the ol’ ink this week. So without further
ado, I give you—
by a couple of local nuggets who go by the handles of Charles (Lawson, guitar
and vocals) and Ed (Petche, guitars), the Swamp Twisters rope, wrangle and brand
their own special blend of classic folk/blues/ragtime/jive with all the glee
of a field hand on a Saturday night in the Big City. Along with the able assistance
of drummer John Gwynn, saxophonist Rochelle Becker and singer Mary Leinfelder,
they do a fine job here of translating a piece of the genuine joy to be found
in yowlin’ the blues no matter what shade yer derma is.
Album opener “Who Let The Cat In?” (one of two Petche originals
here—Lawson contributes the tastily-picked and superbly spiteful “So-Called
Friends” and the gang covers a gaggle of killer influences, including
Spider John Koerner’s “Takin’ My Time” and cuts by the
aforementioned Mr. Johnson, The Delmore Brothers, an’ more) glides in
like the soundtrack to a badass ’50s greaser flick, all Link Wray attitude
an’ ducks-ass style. It’d be real easy to just close yer peepers
an’ imagine cruisin’ with the top down on a lit-up city strip with
these gruff axes an’ choppin’ snares blastin’ outta yer (AM
radio) speakers. The album jumps, jives and shucks like there’s no tomorrow—one
minnit a blues holler, then a squiggly N’awlins shout, next a Mississippi
River dunkin’—not yer average, run o’ the mill “blues”
outfit by a long shot.
Other standouts include “Me And The Devil Blues,” Petche’s
“Blackbird” (which grunts, groans an’ shimmies like that gal
ya wish was waitin’ in that bar yer headin’ for tonight), and Koerner’s
“Takin’ My Time” (a genuine piece of Twin Cities history—an’
one that if ya don’t know, ya don’t know squat). The Swamp Twisters
may not be spewin’ out anything 500 other hard-livin’, hard-drinkin’
pickers with beat-to-hell guitars an’ fuck-it-all attitudes aren’t,
but then again, they ARE doin’ it in your hometown.
Do yourselves a favor—check out Charles, Ed and the crew next time ya
see ’em listed around town. An’ dig down an’ shell out a few
bucks for this disc if yer lookin’ for some authentic, soulful, from-the-gut
blues/folk pickin’ an’ writin’. Hell, if it’s good enough
for Spider John, you’d be remiss to not at least give ’er a spin.
Me, I’m off to sample some of late spring’s finest natural bounties—I’ll
see ya next week, same time, same space. Until then—make yer own damn
If you have local music news/gigs/CDs/events you’d like to see
mentioned in this space, or you’d just like to complain that once again
I forgot to mention how Eric Clapton has helped to destroy your personal life,
send replies to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We couldn’t run ’Round the Dial last week due to some technical
difficulties, so we’re appending it here for your Dial-pleasure ...
Yo, yo, yo, wassup, ’Dial-nuts, Amicable Enemies In Need Of Enemas,
an’ the rest of ya loveable Looney-Tunes?! HALLETT
here, ZIPPING off a SHORT, SWEET note from the WILD BACKCOUNTRY of ALASKA. Before
DIVING headfirst into our usual (mostly) LOCAL REVIEWS COLUMN, I thought it
might be kinda fun to play a lil’ game first, howzzat sound? It’ll
honestly be far more entertaining for you folks perusin’ this on the ol’
web-a-roo, but let’s see how many KEY WORDS we can include. Get a WRITING
JOB in TODAY’S MARKET, and you’ll soon discover the importance of
“KEY WORDS” to your employers who also EMPLOY the INTERNET to FUND
their PERSONAL CRUSADES and POLITICAL AGENDAS.
Wow! I’ve used over a dozen really great key words already! Can you spot
‘em? Here’s a few easier ones ya just know will go over BIG in the
ol’ CORPORATE HEAD OFFICE: MINNEAPOLIS. LOCAL MUSIC. PULSE OF THE TWIN
CITIES. ELECTION. BUSH REGIME. SNUFF FILMS. COLLEGE LOANS. ART COMMUNITIES.
ORGANIC anything. SEEDING THE CLOUDS. WAVY GRAVY. LOCAL THEATER. WOODY GUTHRIE.
RIOTS. ARRESTS. HARASSMENT. DICK CHENEY. HEMP. CIA. RUNNING FOR OFFICE. CORRUPTION.
FAT-FREE. SUGAR-FREE. FUN-FREE. FREE. FREE? FREE!!
And finally, let’s just toss in, just for good measure, the boss’s
name, eh? Can’t hurt! ED FELIEN. ED FELIEN. ED FELIEN. Oh, yeah, and VOTE!
VOTE! VOTE! There! That lil’ steaming pile of electronic goo should at
least guarantee me the coveted role of PULSE SECRET RED SANTA at the ol’
PULSE HOLIDAYS BASH this next DECEMBER, anyhow. And now on to some actual living,
breathing, original MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL music, eh?
Big People Shoes
Cosmic Booty Records
Lead axe-man and local man-about-town Steve Dupuis has always been a favorite
stage presence for me, whether it be spent lurking about in shadowy, piss-reekin’
Twin Cities clubs or gabbin’ over a brew or two at the crib. His time
with The Rakes cemented him as one of the Cities’ premier live acts/original
performers—at least in circles where such things as red vinyl pants and
pre-drinking face pierce-countings aren’t the norm. In other words, he’s
a regular Joe with a helluva talent, and it was inevitable that talent would
find an outlet in a town as teeming with likeminded souls as this one is.
I got a demo from Steve’s Rakes side-project, The
Blue Mollies, a year or two back, and though I dug the honest, no-bullshit
approach of the band (and in particular, lead singer Emily Olson’s heartfelt
vocals and spot-on lyrics), I didn’t feel at the time that they were quite
ready to hit them boards a runnin’. A year or two beatin’ them worn
bar stages and dirty outdoor festivals, some practices where beer bottle dodgin’
becomes almost as standard a ritual as actually writing songs does, and maybe
a couple more gallons of fine alcoholic beverage has combined to gel this unit
into something cool, trippy and a bit outta the ordinary—a combo I thrive
upon as both a fan and a writer.
The band and Olson herself have matured, gelled and become the cohesive, get-under-your-skin
kinda pop/Americana/rock outfit I suspected they could all along. Olson has
a sweet, soul-stirring voice that’s somehow reminiscent of Neko Case,
Caitlin Cary and (at times) Kate Bush. With such an impressive roster of powerful
female inspirations (or, at the very least, logical comparisons), and the memorable,
down-to-earth bond this band displays on Big Kid Shoes, I’m confident
that Emily—and the rest of the outfit—has reached the point in her
singing career where she’s bound to begin (if she hasn’t already)
to attract some serious attention from some worthy local or regional indie label—or
maybe even one of those ubiquitous superstar-run “imprints” who
once in awhile stoop down and actually scoop up some hard-working talent from
the mire of shite we wade through in today’s modern music scene.
by the über-competent, slightly daring combo of Dupuis on axe, co-writing
and vocals, the super-tight skinwork of drummer Kirk Hall and the moving, gut-wrenching
bass thumpin’ of Brad “Thunder-Thumbs” Konkel, Olson lays
down a plethora of catchy, universally-groovable, musically-challenging love
songs, social and interpersonal statements and just plain old good, fun rock
’n’ roll with all the righteous fire of a Lucinda, an Emmylou or
a pre-’Oughts Marlee MacLeod. Faves for me on this batch include opener
“Nicotine” (Should be a HUGE hit in all them joy-filled local non-smoking
ROCK bars, kids! Wheee!!), the sexy, smoky torch ballad “Drive-In”
and the growling, tongue-in-cheek rant “Blackballed.”
With special guests like former Dupuis bandmate (from the late, great RAKES)
Aaron Pruitt on guitar, Amanda Pruitt on backing vocals and the masterful mastering
techniques of highly underrated scene-building board wiz Mike Wisti, Big People
Shoes proves that The Blue Mollies really are ready to toss aside their light-up
Nikes and pull on some bad-ass, ’70s-style Dingo leather ass-kickers.
Cheers, gang, great album—highly recommended. Check ‘em out at www.thebluemollies.com.
That’s it for me this week, gang—tune in again next time ‘round
for more local, national and inner space rantin’ an’ ravin’.
‘Til then—make yer own damn news!! ||