Friday, December 14, 2012

Greg Spradlin and the Band of Imperials, “Hi-Watter”

Image courtesy Greg Spradlin and the Band of Imperials.
I got scooped hard this week by the cover story on Greg Spradlin in the new Arkansas Times by David Ramsey. Spradlin is one of the mainstays of Little Rock’s music scene, long known as a musician’s musician and one of the best guitar players in the state. He’s played with a ton of bands, including Lucinda Williams and Chuck Berry, as well as local heroes the Boondogs and Mulehead. In the 1990s he fronted the alt-country band The Skeeterhawks and in 2003 released …and Twiced as Gone by his own Greg Spradlin Outfit. He worked for several years with legendary Memphis musician and producer Jim Dickinson until Dickinson’s death in 2009.

The big news in the Times cover story is that Spradlin has a new band called Greg Spradlin and the Band of Imperials featuring Los Lobos guitarist David Hidalgo and Pete Thomas, long-time drummer for Elvis Costello, who no less than Tom Waits has praised as the best rock drummer alive. They have recorded a bunch of songs together and the plan, according to Spradlin in the Times article, is to release them one or two at a time over the coming months. “Hell or Hi-Watter” and “I Drew Six”, released through the group’s Bandcamp page (linked below), are the first two songs the group has made public, and they are monsters. Or, as Ramsey puts it in his article:

The Imperials sound like a bar band, in the very best way. The 10 songs they've finished so far are loose, swampy, anthemic, psychedelic. They sound like Arkansas, and they sound like something from another planet. Spradlin growls and wails like a drunken preacher. It's both more playful and more expansive than anything he has recorded before, dirty enough for a dive bar but with the sprawling ambition of arena rock.

Spradlin will be playing these songs and more tonight at White Water Tavern opening for legendary blues guitarist Kenny Brown. Thomas and Hidalgo, sadly, will not be joining him for this performance, but Spradlin says he’s working on the logistics to get them in to town for a gig.

Full disclosure: Spradlin and I worked together at Heifer International Foundation for a few years, and I promoted a few local gigs with The Skeeterhawks on the bill with another band I was working with back in the mid-1990’s.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Antivenin Suite by Isaac Alexander

Image courtesy of Max Recordings.

Antivenin Suite, Isaac Alexander, Max Recordings, 2012.

I was all set to publish the list of my favorite records from this year when I got word that Isaac Alexander was playing a show tonight Thursday, December 13, at White Water Tavern to celebrate the release of his new album, Antivenin Suite. Now that I’ve gotten a chance to hear the record a few times, it was good decision to hold of publishing my list, because Antivenin Suite surely deserves a place on it.

The record goes a long way to refining Alexander's voice as an artist, separate even from his contributions to Big Silver, The Easys, Boondogs, and the other bands he plays in and writes for.

Alexander's songs are laconic, economically crafted, and effortlessly melodic, drawing the listener in to songs that, without the bouyant melodies, might otherwise sound cynical.

Antivenin Suite is available on CD in the store at Max Recordings webstore and digitally at Alexander's Bandcamp page.