Day Two of the manic weekend found me heading downtown to the Alley Deck in the Majestic Theatre complex to catch a set by one of my rock’n’roll heroes, Greg Cartwright. Having missed the Oblivians concert the night before (cloning is not one of my abilities) I knew I could not leave town without catching his solo set…even with a seven hour drive and two border crossings staring me down. I crawled in the door after midnight, but I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.
An American Original
Greg apologized for being of raw throat and said he’d sing as long as he was able, then smiled and added “…but I will further fuck my voice up by smoking this cigarette“. The warning was all for naught; he wound up playing two sets to an appreciative crowd of fans and fellow musicians… and I lost count at thirty-six songs.
Besdies a catalogue rich in great material, Cartwright had the crowd in stitches between songs – his story about Jack Oblivian selling his guitar to Jack White was classic. But he also paid genuine props to his peers, pointing out a friend who introduced him to an early Detroit single that’s now a live favorite, or how he learned how to better sing his own song “Bad Man” after hearing Rachael Nagy’s interpretation with The Detroit Cobras.
While there were some planned songs in his set, he also frequently took requests with the caveat that he might not remember all the words. Fumbles were rare, but when he hit the wall during “Two Thieves” he simply stopped and said “when I am beaten by my own brain, I will stand down“. Then, laughing, he fired up the next tune. I’m not certain who had more fun, Greg or the audience. He’s an approachable guy who is the antithesis of the rock star persona, which is probably why so many other musicians are almost reverential when his name comes up in conversation.
The set list touched upon all his band associations like The Oblivians and The Compulsive Gamblers but mostly drew upon The Reigning Sound, with at least one new track (“Pocket Full of Broken Things“) from their upcoming album Love & Curses. Hard to pick highlights, but “Reptile Style”, “We Repel Each Other”, “Time Bomb High School” and “Stop And Think It Over” each lit the place up like a rocket.
The Reigning Sound is now headed for Europe, but will return Stateside by mid-August to prepare for a tour to support the new album. Do not miss the opportunity to see not only one of America’s finest bands, but a true icon of independent music. I’ll hopefully interview Greg later this summer as part of a feature article about the band.
Stop And Think It Over
We Repel Each Other
For this cover, no caption will do
Eugene Chadborne and Jack Yarber in the same space and time? Covers of Howlin’ Wolf, Ian Hunter, Warren Zevon and The Zeroes? Someone is reading my thoughts again. But what at first looks to be a raw, bluesy coalition scraping through swamp rock and jukebox leftovers quickly turns as fascinating and odd as the list of musicians. When most people hear “supergroup” they think Blind Faith or CSN or some other A-list combination of name artists. South Filthy is also a supergroup, but their ranks are filled with battle-tested, alcohol-soaked barrroom warriors from groups like Compuslive Gamblers and Tearjerkers along with the pen and sword of the uber-prolific Monsieur Jeffrey Evans.
Their 2006 album Crackin’ Up isn’t for everyone; might not even be for most. But liquor up and listen…
I’m not certain how much permanence there is in the Memphis-Texas coalition or just how far their tongues are stuck up their collective cheeks (the inebriated waltz of Tom T. Hall’s “I Like Beer” bats in the 3-hole here). But if you think of this as Karaoke Night gone horribly awry – with instruments – it’s like listening to a group of off-center musician pals taking the stage and daring each other to get weirder song by song. And yes, some of the tracks are as sloppy live as they are in studio. Last man standing, indeed.
Their take on “C’mon Let’s Monkey” sounds like the theme from “Happy Days” performed by a shopping cart of winos. “Flaming Star” is somewhere between fragile and sloppy, reminiscent of a late 80s Alex Chilton b-side (and wouldn’t he have fit right in here!). But the closer to the blues they get (Wolf’s “You Can’t Put Me Out”), the stronger and more sincere they sound. Yeah, there’s the occasional bad Bob Dylan impression and someone will come in a fraction behind the beat time to time, but so what? Lots of bright spots to enjoy, and the title track is a killer. Loosen up, willya?
All you need is a twenty and an alibi.
Filed under Music, Reviews
I was thinking about how much I miss The Compulsive Gamblers, which of course made me realize that The Reigning Sound are way overdue for a new album. It also reminded me of the genius of Greg Cartwright and how much fun I had watching him (with The Reigning Sound) open for and then back up Mary Weiss a couple of years ago at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland, Ohio. Weiss, of course, scored multiple hits forty (!) years ago as the leader of The Shangri-Las, and while “(Remember) Walking in the Sand” and “Leader of the Pack” were intregal parts of this set (and thoroughly appreciated by the audience, natch!) the new songs were flat-out killer. My favorite, “Stop and Think It Over”, is a classic Compulsive Gamblers tune that many bands cover; The Hives light it up pretty well and Sarah Borges even had a hit of sorts. And speaking of huge Shangri-La fans, this song has David Johansen written all over it – maybe a cover on the upcoming New York Dolls album, please?
But all this daydreaming only made me realize that despite all that magic, most people probably missed the tour and album. So true to the column header, I thought it would be a good time to shine a light on a well-deserved target.
Aren’t segues great?
Still the Leader of the Pack.
Dangerous Game (Norton)
So many bands have been stitched back together for money-making stints at the local casino that it’s hard to remember what the word “comeback” really means. How about changing the sonic landscape in your teens, then aside from some oldies gigs, all but disappearing from the public eye for almost forty years…then launching a vital, contemporary sounding statement? Former Shangri-La Mary Weiss has done just that, thanks in large part to The Reigning Sound as her band and Greg Cartwright as chief songwriter and co-producer (along with Norton’s Billy Miller). Of course, when you can sink your teeth into Cartwright gems like “Don’t Come Back”, “Stitch In Time” and “Stop and Think It Over”, how can you not sound great? Who else could give Weiss the wiser-than-thou single “Cry About The Radio”, which opens with the immortal couplet “Kids / Kids don’t know shit”?
Miller and Cartwright create a wonderful sonic platform for Weiss, aided by some ace songwriting from John Felice, Barry-Greenwich and The Dictator’s Andy Shernoff. The latter’s “You’re Never Gonna See Me Cry” (a co-write with Miller) defies time, bridging the gap between the heyday of Spector and Shadow Morton (complete with short spoken word bridge) and twenty-first century neo-garage pop. Her old fans will certainly be thrilled by “the voice” along with enough angst and doom in the lyrics (though not as melodramatic). New fans will marvel that a sixty year old looks forty and sounds thirty.
If Mary Weiss spiked the ball with Dangerous Game and walked away, this would be great closure; a glorious and worthy cap on her career. But I hope she’s got a couple more in her.
Filed under Music, Reviews