Bound For Glory : Black Diamond Heavies
She crawls upside down and backwards down a flight of stairs, growling from somewhere in her bowels, drooling blood--and later facing a priest, skin a corpse-like pallor and eyes like white marbles, head spinning all the way around--disgorging split-pea soup in his direction. She is not responsible for her actions, but rather must be cured of a fate granted by the likes of Satan. The demon has possessed her, using the body to channel evil works for its own desire, the exorcism of no consequence to the girl. What exactly has the demon taken possession of? Is it the soul of the human being, the body, or the mind--and for what purpose?
“Demon-possessed” may be stretching the metaphor. True, a certain amount of an artist is supernatural, suppressed in the daily art of conversation and surfacing only in the tender moments of creativity, the soul of which is poured into real art. Some even describe their artist-self apart from their everyday demeanor, calling it a stranger you can’t ever quite get to know, something magical and sacred. He put his heart and soul into that. That song is so full of soul. Does the artist possess the art? Or does the art possess the artist?
The purpose of soul seems clear in Black Diamond Heavies art, steering tunes in the way of a “pentecostal” feel--that is, possessed by a spirit that drives a man to speaking in tongues. They’ve covered songs of artists also known for soulfulness, John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters, from an art defined by its essence. Blues music, in any sense of the word, evokes the feeling just as it sounds-the emotion gathered well enough to survive a century, for the ultimate soul-seeker.
The Heavies, at first listen, sound like a mix of Black Keys fuzz and Tom Waits vocals-their latest release “A Touch of Someone Else’s Class,” was recorded with the Key’s Dan Auerbach, and both bands share a label with ALIVE records. The band are a fan of Tom Waits also, and tribute a cover to the punk-blues artist as well. Appropriately, the members of Heavies attest to their soul by their roots. Of the two members, John Wesley Myers is the “left hand of rhythm, right hand of soul. The son of a Baptist preacher…[he] has been shaking his testimony all over the south.” The drummer, Van Campbell, “comes from a family of bourbon distillers.” Nothing says blues and soul like the south.
Absent from the duo’s instrumental quota is a favorite blues, rock, and rhythm utensil, the guitar. Instead they decide to go a more classical route, using the piano to convey the message. The electric Fender Rhodes is anything but classical however, and paired with a barren, stripped-down drum modernizes the blues era to something indistinguishable from its predecessor, new and strange, spirit-possessed.
While it may seem dangerous to copy the originators of the raw duo of the White Stripes, the distinctive vocal genius of Tom Waits, and the fuzz rock signature of the Black Keys, the Heavies manage to combine all with elements of their own gospel instinct and electric piano skills to breed something completely nuanced.
The energy from the band is enough to convince one of demon-possession. Reviewers liken them to steam engines and evangelistic yelpers, sometimes exorcists. Extracting the essence and soul of a number seems to be first priority for them, completing songs with the fervor of a fanatic priest. The melodies of Black Diamond Heavies erupt as the true soul of the artists creating them. - Jeanne Gette / High Plains Reader