It doesn’t take hearing more than about twenty seconds of “Don’t Comfort Me,” the first track off Dead 27s new CD “Chase Your Devils Down,” to know you’re in for a great rock experience. Combining the swagger of the Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar” with the rumble to life rock sound of The Black Crowes’ “Sting Me,” the tune immediately gets lodged in your brain. I wanted to hear it a second time in an American-made car, with the top down while tearing down the highway. It’s that kind of song, made for the road, and possessing that most basic of rock and roll sound makeups; guitars, bass, drums, a good lead singer and just a hint of cowbell. Christopher Walken would approve.
The whole of “Chase Your Devils Down” is solid, bluesy rock music played by some truly great local musicians. In addition to vocalist Trey Francis, the band includes guitarist Wallace Mullinax and Will Evans, bassist Oliver Goldstein, and drummer Daniel Crider. The new album demonstrates beautifully how these five work together to create a groove that sustains throughout the seven-track CD. In addition to “Don’t Comfort Me,” which is my personal favorite track, standout tunes include soulful “Don’t Want to Live My Life Without You,” which is the best song Al Green never wrote, as well as a smoking cover of the blues classic “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.”
I had a chance to discuss the new release with Dead 27s drummer Daniel Crider recently. According to Crider, the songs on the new album were chosen because they had been well received when played by the band in clubs around town. “They were the most complete, and we had tested them out by playing them live,” says Crider. “‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’ was chosen because we wanted to do a remake of an old delta blues tune. We didn't want to do one that had been done too much, like ‘Crossroads,’ but wanted one that had a vibe to it we could work with. Blind Willie Johnson's original version is scary. The guitar work is amazing too. His voice his haunting and really captures the vibe of what he's talking about. At first, we thought maybe approach that tune like T-Bone Burnett would, but that wouldn't fit the overall vibe of the album and wasn't really our thing. So Wallace and Will worked up this riff, and next thing you know, we had a very original sounding take on an old delta blues song. It's a homage to our influences, and the style that started the music we love.”
Daniel says he’s most proud of the song “Let Your Mind Go.” “It's a very simple song, but we captured this quirky groove that accents the quirkiness of the lyrics,” says Crider. “I remember I was playing the hi hat straight at first, then we listened back and it just ‘blah.’ I think MJ Fick of (Truphonic Studios, where the album was recorded) suggested the hi hat shuffle pattern, and from there the tune came to life. Wallace added a bridge that brings the song to a new level. So we have this simple tune that turned out to be something more complex, but never gets in the way, it enhanced it.” As for which tune he likes to perform live, Crider goes back to the groovy "Don't Want to Live My Life Without You,” saying, “The groove I start the tune with is like Al Green's ‘Take Me to the River.’ How can you not dance to that? I love seeing people sing along to it, and right now that's the song people associate with us most because it's the first song we released.”
Crider says that the song “Jasper County Blues” was the most difficult to write as a band. “There are so many ways we could approach each part of that song, and each way makes the song completely different. I remember thinking about several ways of trying to approach a drum part, but then knew I was over thinking it and just needed to do what it naturally called for. The most difficult song to record was ‘Penny.’ We wanted the verse parts to really pull and the ending to really push. So, I was purposefully playing behind the click on the verse and ahead of the click during the build up. Plus, I wanted to capture the "busy" type playing associated with the 60s/70s style of Mitch Mitchell and Keith Moon without getting in the way of the tune. ‘Jasper County Blues’ has that push/pull thing going on too, but ‘Penny’ was recorded first. We wanted to make sure we captured the same excitement in the studio as we do on stage when everyone is firing on all cylinders and really gelling and getting into it. We recorded the rhythm section together as a band like they did in the golden era of music, when people actually played in a room together and recorded. I think we captured a vibe on the album, one I'm proud of and excited about. I feel like we accomplished recording an album that makes you ‘feel’ the music. I don't know how we did it really, but it's something special.”
“Chase Your Devils Down” is definitely something special. It’s a no-frills, straightforward rock and soul album that showcases the talents of one of Charleston’s best live bands. You can catch the band live as it celebrates the release of “Chase Your Devils Down” at The Pour House on Sunday, May 25.
(Images via Facebook, Dead27.com, metronomecharleston.com)