Ter­rell’s Tune-Up

Steve Ter­rell on Bar­rence Whit­field & The Sav­ages’ new­est al­bum

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A few years ago, when rock ’n’ soul shouter Bar­rence Whit­field first re­united with gui­tarist Peter Green­berg and bass­man Phil Lenker — all orig­i­nal mem­bers of The Sav­ages, who tore up the East Coast back in the mid-1980s — my big­gest con­cern was that their ex­cel­lent come­back al­bum, Sav­age Kings, might be a one-shot deal.

But since then, Whit­field and his Sav­ages have faith­fully re­leased an al­bum ev­ery two years, Dig Thy

Sav­age Soul (2013) and now Un­der a Sav­age Sky (of­fi­cial re­lease date Aug. 21).

Once again, Whit­field and crew have laid down a record full of high-charged, hopped-up, rough, rowdy and raw tunes that should make you re­mem­ber why you loved rock ’n’ roll in the first place.

There’s no mis­tak­ing this al­bum for any­thing but a Bar­rence Whit­field record. It’s got your ba­sic rock­ing gui­tar, scream­ing sax, and soul­ful shouts from Whit­field. There are mu­si­cal nods to Lit­tle Richard, The Son­ics (the im­mor­tal Wash­ing­ton state garage gi­ants, with whom Bar­rence & The Sav­ages toured ear­lier this year) and soul­sters like Don Co­vay and Otis Red­ding.

But while the al­bum re­tains all those el­e­ments that Whit­field fans ex­pect, Un­der the Sav­age Sky has a harder edge — faster rhythms, louder drums, crunchier gui­tar — than the group’s previous ef­forts. As a band, The Sav­ages are still ex­tremely tight. Here they just seem more fe­ro­cious.

The core of the al­bum con­sists of tunes writ­ten by Green­berg and fel­low New Mex­ico res­i­dent Michael Mooney. (The two played to­gether in a Taos garage band called Manby’s Head, which I haven’t seen in a cou­ple of years.) Among these are “An­gry Hands,” which has a melody sim­i­lar to Alice Cooper’s “I’m Eigh­teen” and — like “Wil­lie Mee­han” on Sav­age

Kings — is about a washed-up boxer; “In­car­cer­a­tion Casse­role,” which is about a guy whose wife is locked up in jail — caus­ing him to ob­sess over who’s go­ing to fix his din­ner; and “Ad­junct Street,” a slow, mi­nor-key blues that Whit­field sings the hell out of.

Then there’s “Katy Didn’t,” writ­ten by Green­berg, Mooney, and Whit­field him­self. Start­ing off with a gui­tar hook that re­minds me of “Kicks” by Paul Re­vere & The Raiders, the song be­gins, “She had a hol­low leg/Knew how to make me beg/She drank me un­der the ta­ble.”

As usual, Whit­field in­cludes some in­spired cov­ers from deep in the bow­els of Green­berg’s fa­bled record col­lec­tion. “I’m a Full Grown Man,” which was orig­i­nally called “I’m a Man” when soul­man Timmy Wil­lis recorded it decades ago, has sweet echoes of the Stax/ Volt sound; “The Wolf Pack” goes all the way back to Kid Thomas (Louis Thomas Watts), who recorded it in 1955; and “I’m a Good Man,” an Ed­die Snow song from the ’50s, which sounds like a rewrite of “Shake, Rat­tle and Roll.”

Un­der the Sav­age Sky ends with “Full Moon in the Day­light Sky,” an in­tense mi­nor-key work­out writ­ten by Whit­field and Lenker. It is sched­uled for re­lease on Aug. 21 but is ready for pre-or­der on all your fa­vorite on­line shops. For more in­for­ma­tion, try www.blood­shotrecords.com/artist/bar­rence-whit­field-sav­ages.

Also rec­om­mended:

▼ Jamie Was a Boozer: Spe­cial Edi­tion by Joe West & The Sin­ners. Back in 1998, Joe West was liv­ing in Austin. I hadn’t met the guy at the time, but I was start­ing to get fa­mil­iar with his mu­sic. He’d sent me his first al­bum, Trip to Roswell, N.M., which had some good songs on it. But I didn’t of­fi­cially be­come a West fan un­til he sent me his sec­ond al­bum, Jamie

Was a Boozer.

Backed by a snappy lit­tle sa­loon band called The Sin­ners (and on some cuts, former True Be­liever Jon Dee Gra­ham on lap steel), Jamie Was a Boozer was no sopho­more slump. The al­bum has been out of print for years, but last month a com­pany called Baby Black Panda re­leased a new ver­sion, fea­tur­ing all 15 of the orig­i­nal songs, plus three pre­vi­ously un­re­leased live tunes.

I looked up my old re­view of the orig­i­nal ver­sion, which was in a column about sev­eral lo­cal re­leases. En­joy some re­cy­cling: OK, of­fi­cially Joe lives and works in Austin but his Santa Fe ties are le­git. His dad, artist Jerry West lives here. And Joe fre­quently pays trib­ute to Santa Fe in song, such as “$2000 Navajo Rug,” a sar­cas­tic toast (with an au­then­tic Santa Fe $5 cerveza) to the ri­cos who keep our cost of liv­ing so high. Joe has a knack for writ­ing funny tunes — Jim Terr would have killed to have writ­ten “Trailer Park Lib­eral” — but the main strength of this al­bum is a core of songs, some funny, some not, re­lated to al­co­hol and the abuse thereof. The ti­tle song is an un­flinch­ing trib­ute to a friend who drowned in liquor. “The Bal­lad of Terri McGovern,” about a woman who got drunk and froze to death, is even more star­tling. “Re­hab Girl,” about a guy with a crush on a lady who works at a re­hab cen­ter, is lighter but it’s got an edge. I’ll stand by what I wrote, adding that the songs have passed the prover­bial test of time. Well, maybe some of those Santa Fe places that sold “$5 cervezas” are no longer so cheap. Oth­er­wise it doesn’t sound dated at all. And the live bonus tunes, while on the same level as “Re­hab Girl,” fit in well. So even if you haven’t heard the orig­i­nal al­bum — and in fact, if you’ve never heard Joe West, my ad­vice is to dive in. Check out www.baby­black­panda.com.

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