Tuesday, January 14, 2014

J.D. Wilkes, Dirt Daubers, and a Wild Moon

I used to know this girl... she traveled with our loosely knit gang of party crashers. Everyone was mismatched, bored, and distracted. All of us would hit the dive bar/show scene and eventually exit back to someone’s place for afterhours binging. The two of us would anticipate the end of the night when everyone else would pass out, go home, or just give up. We always kept a hidden stash of prime candy for the “real horror show” at 3 a.m. We would lay on the floor in a corner with a tiny stereo and listen to Bo Diddley’s “Mona” and Iggy’s “Dog Food”. Both of us were seeing other people but we preferred the cagey rendezvous instead of traditional “dating”, which seemed so lame. Those after-midnight lo-fi sounds echoed our infatuation and amoral purity with a particular black magic, the kind that recklessly drives the primal swamp hip shake of J.D. Wilkes and the Dirt Daubers in their latest offering of “Wild Moon".

The album blasts off with “French Harp Hustle”, a rollicking firestorm that features Wilkes wailing on the harmonica like a man possessed. A masterful hustling of insane garage-swing is unleashed. Rolling rockabilly drumming with evil blues guitar, frenzied harmonica, and gritty male/female vocals hijack your eardrums with endless manic energy. The tracks “Wild Moon” and “Drive” display Wilkes uncanny ability to spike moody garage punk with sophisticated vocal melody. If that wasn’t enough to get your heart beating faster, Jessica Wilkes smoky vocals provide the ultimate compliment to this country punk free for all.

Like a cross between Wanda Jackson and Exene Cervenka, her voice has a bite to it that I’ve never heard before. Tracks like “You Know I Love You” and my personal favorite “No Rest for the Wicked”, rumble and shake like an apocalypse of the finest caliber. “No More My Love” is a bluesy ballad with that sad feeling of watching the sun come up while trying to hold onto the night that just happened. “Wild Moon” is a necessary listen for wild and haunted spirits everywhere. By the way, Cheetah Chrome produced and released this on his hot new label, Plowboy Records. J.D. and The Daubers are hitting Los Angeles and Long Beach this weekend. Check out the dates and following interview I just did with J.D. a few days ago.

Jan 18 Redwood Bar & Grill Los Angeles, CA
Jan 19 Alex's bar Long Beach, CA

(F&L) Manic blues grinding, the supernatural, and LAMF gusto collide into one perfect explosion for the new video/single Wild Moon. What influenced the erotic riffs and video imagery of this contagious Dirt Daubers tune?

(JDW) "Wild Moon" is about a tragic event that took place a few years back, one involving a flood that swept away a buggy full of Amish children.
It's odd that "erotic" would be used to describe anything Amish, but I'll take it! I guess our guitarist has a knack for making any kind of song "sexy."...

What was it like collaborating with legendary Dead Boy Cheetah Chrome for the Wild Moon album? Did the band tap into unknown areas of its “possessed” prowess?

Cheetah is a legendary punk rock star, so he helped keep the tunes edgy and raw throughout the entire process. Although he lives in Nashville now, he definitely is the antithesis of the slick sound that comes out of Music Row these days.

As leader of the infamous country punk troublemakers The Legendary Shack Shakers, you toured with artists ranging from Rancid to Hank Williams III. How would you describe your experience in the swamp of underground rock n roll?

The Shack Shakers helped forge a new genre that mixes all the dark, edgy sub-genres of American music into one. It was fun to play around with blues, rockabilly, polka and bluegrass and discover the common elements that make crowds go wild.

Your frontman style evokes the ghosts of Iggy Pop and Screamin Jay Hawkins, what inspired you to take the stage early on in your career and create the man known as J.D. Wilkes?

I have been playing in bars since I was a teenager, but after seeing Mojo Nixon and Jim Heath perform roots music in an edgy way I knew I wanted to take it further. Since then I have become more of a student of American roots music and am playing catch-up to inform myself and others of the wealth of old-time talent still among us today.

You’ve received mention as a favorite of Stephen King and your song Swampblood was featured in the insanely popular True Blood. What is the connection between your self-expression and art that embraces horror and the paranormal?

Having been raised in the church and educated at a holy-roller private school I have witnessed firsthand the supernatural power of music and faith. I believe the missing element in much of what qualifies as "southern gothic" are the subjects of faith and folklore.There's something to be said for our shared cultural "blood memory" and the arcane ways the Unknown expresses itself.

You play harmonica the same way Robert Johnson twisted a fret board. Your style is hypnotic on Dirt Daubers tunes such as Wake Up Sinners, one of my all-time favorites. How did you learn to harness the wild energy of blues harp?

I overdosed on Sonny Boy Williamson and Paul Butterfield as a kid. I remember the sensation of the first note I "bent" on a harmonica. It almost seemed to scratch an itch in my brain! I listened to lots of styles of music and tried to absorb it all. From blues to Dixieland jazz to beer commercials. It was all up for grabs.

With the latest Dirt Daubers record, you moved away from a demonic, honky-tonk acoustic approach to a guitar heavy landslide of hip grinding rock n roll. What was the catalyst to go back into a style somewhat similar to The Legendary Shack Shakers?

Jessica and I share more musical common ground in our mutual love of blues and classic R&B. My heart is still in old-time music but the current DD sound allows for a wider range of sonic possibilities, from rockabilly to blues to hot jazz and swamp rock.

As an author, could you tell us a little about your latest book Barn Dance & Jamborees Across Kentucky?

I made it my mission to travel from one end of my state to the other to chronicle the last throes of our indigenous musical culture. I fear regional American cultures are in danger of disappearing with each passing year. This is just my little way of giving back...a small valentine to the old-time music of Kentucky and the "Greatest Generation" that play it from a more honest and experienced place in their hearts.

As a filmmaker, actor, author, and musician, do you find these different forms of expression to be different dimensions of your personality?

I actually see them all as the same part of my personality, just expressed differently. All art forms follow the same story arc... A sort of "bell curve" dynamic that hooks you in, ramps up, then down, and crescendos to a climactic finale. Learning the methods of each craft is the more daunting challenge, but I'm always up for new things.

I find it really cool that you share the Dirt Daubers with your wife Jessica. In some instances, a marriage can cause an artist to “settle down” for lack of a better term. Your marriage seems to ignite the music of the Dirt Daubers in a unique fashion with your sharing of vocal duties. How did you two meet and what is it like touring together?

We met through a mutual friend in Chicago. We bonded over a shared love of comics but then discovered we had musical aspirations in common too. I think Jessica is a star waiting to happen. She writes from a more accessible place (while I write songs about Amish people!) and looks and sounds great on stage. She's also easy going on the road, moreso than many male bandmates I've had the misfortune of touring with in the past. I'm very proud of her.

What does 2014 hold in store for the Dirt Daubers and what are you looking to achieve with your latest album and other unique creations?

If we can make a living recording and performing honest music coast-to-coast and worldwide, drawing comics and writing stories about cool stuff that matters, making short films and not getting day jobs... then THAT is our Grammy Award

Kevin P McGovern, 2014
Fear and Loathing in Long Beach
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