5 Songs By The Birmingham Band ‘ Banditos’, That Belong On A Playlist Titled “Dirty”

There is something about the Banditos’ sound that makes me want to believe they got ignited to learn to play music one day totally haphazardly; just by vigorously strumming their instruments until a fireball of tunes came barreling out . This band isn’t rough around the edges; they are real and rough through and through. For all I know, it could very well be, that every member of this edgy rock sextet, has actually been classically trained. However, if that is the case, when this band hits the stage, they shake off their well-trained roots like a southern belle ditching cotillion for a backyard blowout.  

 

They are everything your gourmandizing ear would want an Alabama band to be, with songs rich in soul and poor in “morals”. They stir up those deeply-rooted raw rock ‘n’ roll instincts inside you, the way you thought only the classics like CCR, Chuck Berry, or Janis Joplin could. The band features Corey Parsons on vocals and guitar, Steve Pierce on banjo and vocals, Mary Richardson on vocals, tambourine, and occasionally kazoo, Jeffrey Salter on electric guitar and lap steel, Danny Vines on bass, and Randy Wade on drums. Needless to say, they make a lot of (honky tonk & rock ‘n’ roll) noise.

Though the band has previously recorded albums, one most notably with Andrija Tokic, the producer of Alabama Shakes’ breakthrough Boys and Girls album, they haven’t released these albums for purchase except at live shows Their official debut album is set to come out by Spring of 2015. Among the crowd of music critics and fans not-so-patiently anticipating this release, are DJs from stations like WUSF 89.7, 96.5 WSLR, Gravel Road Radio, and Scenester Radio, who have been showing their support via airplay time. Banditos recently signed with Bloodshot records, which makes perfect sense after running into this quote from the Chicago based indie label.

 ”If you want unaffected rock and roll, we got it. You want some old school Honky Tonk untarnished…We got it.”

Sadly, the group is rounding off their Wicky Wild Wild West tour with just three more chances to see them on December 19 in Nashville, TN, December 20 in Louisville, KY, and December 22 in Knoxville, TN. If you can’t make any of those shows, do as I have, and create a playlist titled Dirty with these five filthy songs.

1. Golden Grease

Full-bodied vocals from Mary, Steven, and Corey power this steam engine locomotive down fog laden tracks. Where they’re heading, nobody knows, but booze, heartbreak, and dancing will be had along the way. Corey’s soft growl premises a steady build to uninhibited foot-stomping glory. Every time I think this band is going to deliver a sultry slow song, they turn up the rock n’ roll heat and boil the water right out of the pot. Their rough Alabama twang sneaks into all of their songs in the best of ways, but it’s especially apparent in this doozy.

2. The Breeze

Good ole fashioned gritty rock n’ roll. Try not to dance to this song, I dare you.

 

3. No Good

A slow, soulful ballad from the perspective of a no bull, no apologizing, no good girl—need you know more? Let’s just say Janis Joplin wouldn’t stray to far away from this one.

4. Long Gone, Away

There are a lot of great things happening in this song—the beautiful play between Corey and Mary’s voices, Jeffrey’s honky tonk guitar riffs, and a wacky spirit from start to finish—but, by far the greatest part of this song is how Mary somehow manages to make a kazoo sound like a ragtime trumpet.

5. I Put A Spell On You

Whether due to a melody too beautiful to forget or a pain to0 human to fade, certain songs have the staying power that permits them to grace the ears of listeners decades and sometimes centuries after the song’s birth. The next level of this phenomenon are the songs reincarnate, who gain their immortality through a myriad of covers. These songs are like musical rites of passage, and the way a musician translates them says everything about their aesthetic. Since the time Screamin’ Jay Hawkins first recorded the 1956 hit ‘I Put A Spell On You’, artists have been trying to reinvent its magic. While no one will ever achieve the bewitching power of Hawkin’s primal, voodoo original, this is a song that comes from the gut rather than the heart, and covers of it reveal those performers who can abandon all logic and deliver a purely visceral performance. Notable covers include Nina Simone’s jazzy rendition, a silky plea to a no good lover, CCR’s version, a gritty drudge through muddy heartache, and Marilyn Manson’s rendering, a slow burn from spooky trance beginning, to a wicked head-banging fiendish romp ending.

While I wouldn’t normally feature a cover song, the Banditos took this song and, like the artists mentioned above, made it their own. I don’t know if Mary has ever been jilted, but her bark carries the ferocious truth of a woman scorned. Contrast those vocals with an oddly sweet banjo and calming bass accompaniment, and your imagination goes wild. The song feels like the soundtrack to the methodical thoughts of a woman who’s made up her mind to take matters into her own hands. David Salter’s explosive guitar solo at the 3 minute mark signifies the moment the spell has been cast. In all their madly cruel, untamable, intoxicating, spirited brilliance; this band put a spell on me, and now, I’m theirs.

written by @offtherecord edited by @airambrosia

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Dead Fingers: A Down-Home Band With a Trick Finger On The Pulse Of Birmingham’s Blooming Music Culture

I have a fantasy that just got tricky on me.  When work makes up the beginning, middle, and end of my day, I imagine ditching it all; escaping to a pawn shop and falling in love with a weathered old guitar wallowing amongst some books in a corner.  After sensing my interest, the shopkeeper politely suggests one of the newer, shinier ones hanging proudly up above.  “Naw,” I’d whisper caressing Maurice, (I named my guitar Maurice), “ you’re the one.”

With Maurice in tote,  I’d travel the countryside, hitching rides along the way, until meeting a ruggedly handsome man named Tuck , and shortly then after, forming the folk duo “Folks Who Folk” together.  Suddenly, however, my fantasy parade just got rained on.  Whatever vagabond visions and wanderlust whimsies I dared to dream, well they just got their thunder broke , the moment I heard the Dead Fingers’ sing “Shoom Doom Babba Labba” off their most recent album, Big Black Dog.  Ala-freakin-bama! I’m slapping myself out of it now, because the real life of these two down-home Americana honeys, just seems so much heartier than my fantasy ever was.

This Birmingham-based band  who is “living the fantasy”, is made up of married singer/ songwriters, Taylor and Kate Hollingsworth, and drummer, Alan Rosser. Together they blend a sunny Alabama disposition with bluesy folk tracks, making a music magic that explores the harmony of contrasts deliciously.  Taylor and Kate’s voices melt together; hers sultry, soothing, and solid, his high-pitcched, ribbity and tattered.  Taking turns, they highlight each other’s vocals with connected balance  — one never seems to dominate the other—with lyrics written and sung with sweet soulful sincerity.  You can feel the laid-back love these two share in songs like, “Free Tonight,” and the longing for peace-of-mind in songs like “Still Haven’t Been Satisfied”, both off their newest release “Black Dog” .

Even though my folksy fantasy may be dashed, my heart is warmed when hearing “On My Way”; a track off their earliest album. There is something about the unexpected harmony these two bring to the table, that reflects the easy breeziness of something other worldly–a something reminiscent in the way the legendary classic Americana duo, June Carter and Johnny Cash, mended melodies together into a sonic suture so strong and true;  that stuff of soul mates our sentimental hearts just can’t stop craving.

While the band’s first, self-titled album featured a number of standout songs, that hinted toward a bright partnership,  such as “Lost In Mississippi” , “Another Planet” and “Rings Around Saturn“, it came across as more of an experiment to find their sounds, than a comprehensive detailing of them. Nevertheless, seeing the transitions and explorations the band has taken, only nourishes a fondness for them. Their second endeavor, with added member Alan Rosser, has all of the consistency the last album searched for, while still managing to maintain the innocence and expansiveness of the premiere album. 

Both Taylor and Kate have had promising music careers apart from each other.  Taylor toured with Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, and recorded a solo 7-inch record with the famous Oxford, Mississippi label, Fat Possum Records.  Kate, who comes from a musical lineage, toured with her sister, Neo-Folk artist Maria Taylor, adding vocals and playing various instruments in the band.

 

Together though, Taylor and Kate possess a unique and endearing sound that emphasizes their individual strengths rather than detracting from them. In November 2012, the couple welcomed daughter, Ava into the world.  The band recorded their second album during Kate’s pregnancy, and Ava joined them on a European tour not long after the birth.  With assistance from Kate’s mother, who adds support along the way to help take care of Ava while on the road, the band has been able to continue touring.  They finished their summer U.S. tour in early August, and have been enjoying playing local venues in Birmingham  (like the Bottletree)  and other Alabama cities for the past few months.

The band is part of a growing music scene in the ‘Magic City’, and a movement to revive the once destitute downtown area into an oasis of artist culture. Things have been blossoming beautifully from everything seen and heard, encouraging local artists to thrive in their own back yards, instead of having to uproot and move half way across the country.  

The fact is, just like any other start up, a music band has similar challenges–keeping talent together, staying creative, and keeping the will intact while trucking along that big dream highway. All the while keeping everything afloat finance wise, and basically keeping the faith even when you don’t know the exact hour of things, or where the next break is going to take you. So if you can tap into a supportive community while staying put close to home, that may help to take a load off. Places like Birmingham seem to be providing a happy nesting ground.

A big part of  Birmingham’s charm is that the community cares about revitalization, providing a fertile hot spot for art to flourish. With no signs of going back, this Alabama town is growing artists from where they sprout,  just like an “art friendly” incubator. Hollingsworth acknowledges the signs of this new sonic bloom in Birmingham, and had this to say recently, 

“Yesterday we were on the local radio station that is two doors down from our record label in a part of town that years ago was a ghetto,” he says. “And now, it’s this fruitful, cool, happening neighborhood. There’s tons of art everywhere now.” 

Support for their sound has come from local radio stations like Substrate Radio, (nestled nearby their record label Communicating Vessels),  as well as from stations farther away, such as WUOG 90.5 in Athens, Georgia and WBEQ 90.7 in Chicago.  As Dead Fingers’ popularity increases and their audience expands worldwide, the little part in all of us that wishes we could run away, leave our worries behind, and join a folk band,  can at least revel in the soundtrack of two people who are living the dream in sweet southern style.

 

collaboratively written by @offtherecord and @airambrosia

edited by @airambrosia

 

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