Written by Arjun Ray
These two bands both contain the basic four of rock instrumentation (guitar, bass, drums, vocals), but sonic similarities stop there. One on hand, we have a funk band who have erupted into screamin’ rock and roll. On the other, we have an indie-country band who has escaped into solitary dreams of the American West. What these bands share in common is that both have changed direction significantly between albums, both towards music more primal and guttural. Expect some pretty interesting sets. Both bands may choose to drift between their older and newer material, either bridging or outlining the divide between their musical-past and their musical-now. For fans of funk, punk, soul, garage, indie, country, folk, post-rock, soundtracks, this is a show not to miss.
Black Joe Lewis
In the past, Black Joe Lewis has been known to channel middle-era James Brown replete with full band and stage banter, but behind his back, he’s been honing a vicious streak, and he aims to stick it right between your ribs. The new Black Joe Lewis sounds like Charles Bukowski on the meanest bender, suddenly gifted with a weapon of a voice. On his most recent record, Electric Slave, the vocals has been sharpened to such a fine point that they pierce right through genre qualifiers to the screaming, bloody heart of rock and roll. It’s like when the MC5 yell out “kick out the jams, motherfucker”, you can feel the literal kick in your chest; a gut level onomatopoeia. In the same way, Joe’s new sound conducts raw sex and raw violence like electricity. He’s a screeching demon, and surprisingly, every last bit of his belted highs are immaculate. Joe is indeed a master of the form. The seven piece band does a fantastic job demonstrating the fluid links between funk and garage rock, soul and punk. While funk is still foundational to the sound of the band, large injections of electric blues, cow punk, and even the occasional heavy-browed, brooding Morphine sax keeps the songs fresh. This one is for fans of James, lovers of King Khan, devotees of the Sonics, and anyone who understand that true rock and roll has always been an uncontrollable, radioactive quantity. Here’s to making rock and roll dangerous again.
Photo by Nicolas Doak
Tallahassee long for the open country in quiet epics that celebrate solitude. On their new album Old Ways, the band has moved from an indie-country past towards cowboy blues. They mix folk music with that side of country that “alt-” never touched. Lead singer Brian Barthelmes sings about simpler times and wide open spaces, where a person is small, and nature looms majestic and never ending. Perhaps it is the space needed for self-reflection, as the lyrics deal in retrospective tales of caution and soul searching. His voice shifts from country drawl to earnest indie troubadour with neither shudder nor grind. With his low and loaded vocals wrapped in heavy quiet, he sounds like a long lost cousin to Mark Sandman. The band is happier to use subtle instrumentation to demonstrate the idea of natural silence. Many songs simply have vocals and acoustic guitar, with the faintest hint of organ like a slow rising dawn brimming over a distant horizon. On a handful of full band tracks, wild west electric guitars drawl gritty and anthemic accompanied by sparse drums and percussion. These songs hint at the epic theatrics of Ennio Morricone, and the hard bite of outlaw country, without giving up the sensitivity of the music. The unique song structures are drawn from indie rock, soundtracks, and post-rock but are sometimes so folky that you expect Brian to break out into vernacular. For all of their opining for a life apart, Tallahassee are based in the city of Boston. Come catch them before the may inevitably disappear into the west.