Black Diamond Heavies
A Touch of Someone Else's Class
It's hard to tell whether Black Diamond Heavies keyboardist and singer John Wesley Myers was born with a greasy spoon stuck in his throat or if his gruff vocals are just the result of many years spent trying to sing along to Tom Waits records. Either way the result is impressive. With just Myers' own pounding on a Rhodes piano and that of his partner Van Campbell on a drum kit, the Black Diamond Heavies have taken Waits' tipsy blues cadence and injected it with the kind of r-n-r vitriol the old guy doesn't muster much.
For their second album, A Touch of Someone Else's Class, the East Nashville duo travelled to Ohio to record with the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach at his Akron Analog Studio. If anyone knows something about making a two-piece sound bigger than it is, it would be Auerbach, but the choice of engineer was fortuitous in other ways as well. Joining the Heavies for one cut, "Bidin' My Time," was Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney's uncle Ralph, longtime horn player for Waits, and his contribution gives the song a touch of late-night noir that can't be gotten from just anyone. Still Auerbach's work is one of the keys (no pun intended) to the record's success. Cuts like the leadoff "Nutbush City Limits" and "Loose Yourself" are imbued with a floor-shaking sound, just enough low-end rumble and in-the-red saturation to make the record come alive.Myers studies of the Waits catalog, Booker T and Muscle Shoals soul, and no doubt Nina Simone (the Heavies do a very worthy cover of her seminal "Sinnerman") has paid off in spades. Touch is a gritty triumph, the kind of record that can't be made without more than a little blood and sweat.
Stephen Slaybaugh / The Agit Reader