|D. Charles Speer & the Helix — Doubled Exposure (2014)|
D. Charles Speer & the Helix — Doubled Exposure
♦♦ “It’s all Iggy-growl motorik country-boogie and modal psychedelic blues jams” — MOJO — 4/5
♦♦ Singer, songwriter, and guitarist D. Charles Speer is the adopted moniker of Dave Shuford, a member of the infamous No-Neck Blues Band from Brooklyn, NY. He writes roots Americana songs from the weird side of American life, evoking the past, representing the present, and predicting the future in the musical languages of the Deep South and country & western.
Location: Georgia ~ Brooklyn, NY
Album release: 24 February 2014
Record Label: Thrill Jockey
1 Wallwalker 3:01
2 Cretan Lords 4:49
3 Bootlegging Blues 3:15
4 Mandorla at Dawn 9:48
5 The Heated Hand 4:19
6 Red Clay Road 4:27
7 Doubled Exposure 5:35
8 Tough Soup 5:14
• Eva Smith 3
• D. Charles Speer & the Helix / D. Charles Speer all others
• Margot Bianca Featured Artist, Vocals (Background)
• Hans Chew Featured Artist, Organ, Piano, Vocals (Background)
• Steven McGuirl Drums, Featured Artist, Percussion
• Jason Meagher Engineer, Mixing
• Jonas Mekas Cover Image
• Harris Newman Mastering
• Marc Orleans Featured Artist, Pedal Steel Guitar
• Ted Robinson Bass, Featured Artist, Percussion
• David Charles Shuford Baglama, Bouzouki, Bowed Bass, Clavinet, Featured Artist, Guitar (Acoustic), Guitar (Electric), Guitar (Electric Baritone), Percussion, Vocals
• Eva Smith Composer
• D. Charles Speer & the Helix Producer
Review by Steve Leggett | Score: ****
♦♦ It's difficult, and maybe even pointless, to try to pin D. Charles Speer (the recording name of Dave Shuford of the No-Neck Blues Band) into a musical genre. Americana fits, perhaps, if it's the kind of Americana that finds a Southern boy from Georgia relocated to Brooklyn and under the spell of Greek mythology, music, and instruments. Speer and his band the Helix mix blues riffs with country two-step boogie shuffles, tinges of discordant jazz, Greek drones, and an independent spirit into a clanging stew that somehow remains honky tonk even as it veers off into space. Then there's Speer's voice, which is a deadpan, almost monotonic, baritone Southern drawl that can just barely hang on to his melodies, but does, and somehow he conveys pathos, redemption, and sharp, nearly concealed humor as he sings and half speaks lyrics that fit so well that they seem hardly to be there at all as the band crashes on. ♦♦ Think Tom Waits getting drunk with the Tennessee Two while playing a honky tonk in Greece, or something like that. Doubled Exposure, recorded by Jason Meagher at Black Dirt Studios in upstate New York, has a rich, full, warm, and still live-sounding and edgy wash of grit all over it, and it is Speer's most accessible album yet, if accessible means one can't help being kind of fascinated by it. The opener, "Wallwalker," is a fast country two-step boogie that says "here we are" with onrushing certainty, before giving way to "Cretan Lords," full of bouzouki and baglamas, which somehow makes allusions to King Minos of Crete's endless labyrinth sound as logical and natural as an old Delta blues song being scratched out at a Mississippi rent party. Speer comes closest to Waits territory on songs like "Bootlegging Blues," which sounds like it could have fit right into Waits' Mule Variations album, but then Speer's maverick vision is utterly his own. Things close out with the rollicking "Tough Soup," a relentless and positive romp where Speer sings out "cook it on high" over and over again, reminding that, although he can skirt the edge of being didactic and difficult, Speer is ultimately about living well, learning lessons, dancing in the face of everything, and not worrying too much about whether you should or you shouldn't.
By John Murphy | posted on 18 Feb 2014 | Score: ***½
♦♦ If you’re looking for a handy pigeonhole, then D Charles Speer probably isn’t the sort of person you’re going to handily fit into one. Speer, otherwise known as David Charles Shuford, has hopped from one genre to another during his long career. As well being a key member of Brooklyn’s No Neck Blues Band, he’s explored traditional Greek music on his solo album Arghiledes, while his band The Helix have released a string of albums combining blues, folk and Americana influences.
♦♦ Doubled Exposure is the latest release from Speer and his band, and it’s an instantly listenable, expertedly played collection. Wallwalker is the perfect introduction, a heads-down straight-ahead bar-room boogie featuring a thick drawl from Speer, sounding oddly like mid-period Iggy Pop at times. Speer’s interest in Grecian music is continued in the following Cretan Lords, where the strains of a bouzouki provides an evocative introduction to the song.
♦♦ This is the sound of a band very comfortable with each other, who have built up some terrific chemistry over their years together. If, at times, the jamming tends towards the self-indulgent — as on the 10 minute long instrumental Mandoria At Dawn — you still can’t help but marvel at the musical expertise on display. They’re obviously a band who’d have a tremendous amount of fun playing live, and that sense of spontanity is easily reflected in the studio.
♦♦ Georgia raised Speer’s southern influences are apparent on Bootlegging Blues and on the country-rock fable Red Clay Road, but this is a real mixing-pot of an album. The aforementioned Mandoria At Dawn even borders on psych-rock at times, as it whirls and swirls through its lengthy running time, with Speer’s guitar peeling off riff after riff over Hans Chew’s wandering piano chords.
♦♦ Speer is very much in the storyteller mode of songwriter — although sometimes his southern drawl makes his lyrics indistinct, his is a world of dealers in prohibition booze, long highways and blowing winds. The lyrical imagery fits in well with the traditional Americana sound and Speer’s rich baritone is well suited to telling his tales.
♦♦ If there’s a fault to be found, it’s that there’s no real personality to be found on Doubled Exposure. It’s easy to admire the craftmanship but if you’re not a fan of ‘authentic’ Americana, it may leave you cold. The jaunty tone of The Haunted Hand can prove a bit irritating, and there are times you can imagine Jools Holland itching to jump on stage with them, such is the preponderance of ‘boogie-woogie’ piano. While they’re no Mumford And Sons — Speer and his colleagues are very much the real deal — if pedal steel and artful facial hair make you shudder, they may be best avoided.
♦♦ For everyone else though, Doubled Exposure is a fine introduction to Speer’s work. ♦♦ At just eight tracks, it may not be the longest of their albums, but it’s certainly one of their most accessible. And when they click, as on the terrific closing track Tough Soup, they sound like one of the best bar bands on Earth. (http://www.musicomh.com/)
Barnaby Smith, March 7th, 2014 07:39
By Joel Oliphint; March 10, 2014; Score: 6.6
|D. Charles Speer & the Helix — Doubled Exposure (2014)|