BLACK DIAMOND HEAVIES: A Touch Of Someone Else's Class
Jun 12, 2008
By Eric Davidson
On their sophomore slab, this East Nashville, Tennessee, duo rambles across song structures and melodies that couldn't be any more traditional in that Southern, sweaty, bar-blues modus operandi. But the cake of gnarled organ and distorted drum stomp all over A Touch make this boogie-woogie wobble like a '75 Ford pickup on it's last, determined shocks about to stumble off a rocky cliff... on Mars. The red-lined production and cymbal screech add a whiff of fried futuro-robot burn like hit-period ZZ Top filtered through the current blues-duo format.
Gravel-throated singer James Leg harbors a demi-doom perhaps due to having to hold together everything but the drums. He may be the only current broken blues carnival barker who heard John Lee Hooker long before Captain Beefheart or Tom Waits, or Man Man for that matter, and has yet to use a beard as evidence of purity—what with purity being something gutter boozers should rarely be concerned with. The razor-stabbed organ-fueled gutter-gospel, "Oh, Sinnerman," actually exudes some of the tempo meander of a rambling church sermon, but the sparse sound of a graveyard Bassholes kin.
Yes, smoky Hammond organ ballads like "Bidin' My Time" are trotted out, loose "baby"s are pleaded upon continuously, and a humid tone over heated tunes is preferred. In general, such blues hammering is best served to a greener crowd not completely sick of this style from exposure to a decade of '80s beer commercials. But mucho credit is given to these Heavies for retaining that storming, redlining fuzz to the point of something like a new kick. Especially on "Solid Gold" where the organ playing starts to whoosh in unexpected corners of the song, cymbals crash like garbage can tops, and for a few moments you forget you've heard this all before. Or maybe you haven't. - CMJ
The Black Diamond Heavies won't be tamed
Nobody would ever accuse the Black Diamond Heavies of being too polished. Instead of concentrating on byzantine guitar riffs or intricate rhythms, the punky, soul-addicted duo rub a thick application of grits, gravy and well-used deep-fryer grease on everything they essay. The apogee of their recording career is a just-released rendering of the dangerously down-to-it Ike and Tina Turner hit "Nutbush City Limits." It's crude and mangy, and once you've heard it, even the hardcore blues-rockin' of fellow travelers the Black Keys sounds polite by comparison. In fact, that's pretty much true of everything on their new CD, A Touch of Someone Else's Class.
The twosome's sparkplug is drummer Van Campbell, a descendant of bourbon distillers who bashes away on his instrument with feral force but never loses the groove. Frontman/ keyboardist John Wesley Myers is equally untamed, and when this fire-breathing son of a Baptist preacher grunts out the handful of lyrics to "Nutbush" or the stomping blues drone "Fever in My Blood," he sounds more like a beast of the forest than a fork 'n' knife-using city dweller.
At points, Myers spits some of the gravel out of his throat and makes like a Southern Tom Waits, adding a dab of back-alley romanticism to the mix. That's no crime, and, frankly, sometimes the Heavies are so aggressive that a little sonic relief is in order.
But lyrical ballads really aren't their strong suit. Fact is, these Tennessee-based madmen really get it on when the chord changes are nearly nonexistent and the smell of fermented sour mash is hanging heavy in the air. When they're rockin' the floorboards in this mode, Campbell and Myers could send an army of punky blues revelers straight down to the devil's fiery pit. And be thanked for it. - Isthmus/The Daily Page