Friday, September 28, 2007

Dangerous and Heavy

Black Diamond Heavies
Every Damn Time
Makes me want to bite off the top of a longneck!

by Mark Deming
Stripping the deep blues to its frame and running the music through a big stack of amps while shaking it into a cold sweat, the Black Diamond Heavies are a band from East Nashville, TN, who prove that in terms of sonic impact and soulful energy, size doesn't matter much at all. The Black Diamond Heavies were formed by keyboard man and vocalist John Wesley Myers, Mark "Porkchop" Holder on guitar and harmonica, and drummer Van Campbell. Myers was previously a member of the feral blues-punk combo the Immortal Lee County Killers, while Campbell had kept time with the Invisibles and the Rum Circus. The Black Diamond Heavies started gigging in 2004 and self-released an EP called You Damn Right in 2005. The record and especially the BDHs' wildly frantic live shows won them a rabid fan following, especially in the South, but in early 2006 Holder amicably left the band, unhappy with the rigors of life on the road. Myers and Campbell opted not only to continue without Holder, but to not replace him; stripped down to a two-piece, the band's music became even more raw and intense than before, and in the summer of 2006 the band scored a record deal with noted garage punk label Alive Records. The Black Diamond Heavies' first full-length album, Every Damn Time, was released in early 2007.

by Mark Deming
As role models for young musicians go, Tom Waits is a pretty good man to follow, but John Wesley Myers' clear admiration of the guy gets to be a bit much on Every Damn Time, the debut album from his band, the Black Diamond Heavies. Here Myers sounds like he spent the better part of a year locked up in a closet with a copy of Small Change, mastering every nuance of Waits' raspy croak, and though Myers conjures up no small amount of soul along the way, the similarity in their vocal styles (which doesn't sound spontaneous or coincidental) gets to be a bit much over the course of 40 minutes. Which is a shame, because otherwise this is a pretty impressive introduction — with just Myers on keyboards and vocals and Van Campbell behind the drums, the Black Diamond Heavies generate a mighty wall of sound and the duo cuts a hard, bluesy groove on songs like "Fever in My Blood" and "Leave It in the Road." Myers' electric piano work is especially impressive on "Poor Brown Sugar" and "Signs," and the anti-cocaine salvo "White Bitch" is a more effective anti-drug message than the "Just Say No" crowd has ever offered. Someone get John Wesley Myers a vocal coach and some less obvious influences and the Black Diamond Heavies ought to deliver a killer second album; even with its flaws, Every Damn Time is an impressive set of messed-up 21st century blues.


Anonymous said...

Awesome! Thanks!