The Cave Singers No Witch Review

Released 2011.  

BBC Review

Steel strings slick with gumbo grease and sweet gospel inflections.

Chris Parkin 2011

The sound of backwoods USA has been sorely misrepresented since the Followill brothers started scratching their crotches and complaining their sex was on fire. Rural America should, as anyone fool knows, sound weird; music that channels this world’s spooky, still-primitive, pastoral spirit. Roiling rock’n’roll fitting for a place where God rules, alligator is on the specials board and voodoo ladies practice magic to witchy ragas. It shouldn’t sound like the soundtrack to a night out in Crawley.

Admittedly, we have been tricked into believing in the same strange world explored in Jim White’s most-excellent film Searching For the Wrong-Eyed Jesus, but can you blame us? It’s a fascinating place inhabited by outsiders that’s free and uneasy. And while The Cave Singers’ music doesn’t inhabit the deepest corner of this world, the trio’s head-dizzying rock’n’roll does delve into this squalid, mystical territory.

They’re from Seattle and comprised of three righteous punks, including Derek Fudesco, the man responsible for Pretty Girls Make Graves’ spiralling basslines. They also claim they didn’t set out to make a psych-folk album; that they don’t listen to the sort of wyrd, Greil Marcus-approved folk’n’roll you’d imagine inspired No Witch and their previous two albums. But that’s okay. This sort of churning, trippy, smoke-hazed fare only comes from how you feel, man. And that mood is fractious and unsettled.

There’s something occasionally off-putting about Pete Quirk’s Rod Stewart croak, and some of the band’s brawling barroom country is just as obvious, like No Prosecution If We Bail. But most of these songs recorded with Randall Dunn (Sunn O))), Black Mountain) swing pendulously, like a noose, bringing down an ominous cloak over proceedings. The circular rhythms are hypnotic, Fudesco’s riffs – some gnarled, some pretty – waft up in smoky loop-the-loops, and the droning Eastern vibes percolate queasily. It’s as if they’ve opened the door of the juke joint and let in the weirdoes.

Influence comes as much from Beggars Banquet (on Clever Creatures), neo-post-punk bands like The Ponys and the loping Krautrock of Can as it does dust-kicking Americana. But with steel strings slick with gumbo grease, sweet gospel inflections and lyrics about "trying to raise a family up" (on Fall) you can almost feel the humidity of the Deep South coming off the record.

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