Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Black Earth - Pink Champagne
Black Earth. Dwell on the words for a second. Imagine it. Inhale it. Feel it in your hands.
Black. Rich. Pungent. Dirty. Fertile. Moist.
Six words that best describe the uber talented shit kickin’ powerhouse three piece from Austin, Texas. Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you Black Earth.
The essence of our existence is the earth itself. Where all good things come from. Under the sun. Holding the water. The earth. Black loam. The kind that gets under the nails and stains your cuticles. (cute testicals?). In the same gritty vein as Americana rocker greats Leroy Justice and the Brought Low from New York City, and sparked with a renewed vigor, Black Earth come roaring back with their euphoric sophomore album “Pink Champagne” produced by Chris “Frenchie” Smith.
Make no mistake, they have “that sound”. The sound that’s going to go big come hell or highwater. You can hear it in the strength and depth of their song writing prowess and musicianship, the sheer power of their delivery and the interwoven, in each other’s pocket, synchronous gel jamability of their live show. The chemistry is more than evident. These guys would KILL live! And they have a reputation for doing just that. As their bio reads, “they demonstrate a lot of versatility. They’re tenacious live and can perform at will”. They’re apt to “go off the deep end into an improvisational tangent”. According to legend, they once did a thirty minute set and only played three songs. The crowd ate it up. Singer/guitar player Jason Calise captures a potent vocal combination of Mark Lanegan from the Screaming Trees and Ian Astbury from The Cult. Influential moments from the Rolling Stones, Sheepdogs, Seven Mary Three, Faces also leak into their sound like friends dropping by for a drink and a tickle.
Their bio continues – “Lots of indie bands use titles so generic that their fans have no clue about the light and dark places in the heart that the songs emerge from. Not so with Black Earth, who declared ‘Hell Yeah’ from the get go on their 2008 album ‘That’s Right, We’re Goin’ Balls Deep’—a collection that also included high energy fare like ‘Whatever Happened to Drinkin’ Whiskey and Kickin’ Ass?’.
Don’t sugar coat it boys.
“Continuing the theme of high hopes followed by shattered expectations, the three began work on Pink Champagne during some of the darkest, heaviest individual periods of their lives. Yet amidst the darkness and personal crossroads, there’s also a feeling that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. This record also shows a different side of the band. ‘We've been through a lot of difficult times, member changes, you name it’ says bassist Dave Rangel. ‘The one thing that has kept us together is the fact that we persevere and our love for music. Through this perseverance, we've been able to create some of our greatest moments. When the chips are down, we keep stepping up’. Pink Champagne begins in and then emerges from a much darker place resulting in an emotionally compelling work”.
Ten songs in ten days. Take no prisoners fellas.
The album kicks off with the twangy bluesy, somewhat countrified DEAR LADY LEAN. It offers up a grass chewin’, tabacco spittin’ feel featuring the rich, raspy vocal work of Jason Calise. The keys sweetly blend the instrumentation on this number. To quote Gord Downie from The Tragically Hip, it conjures up images strollin’ down a corduroy dirt country road on a dusty hot summer’s day pondering where the next paycheck’s coming from and whether the power will still be on when you get home.
The opening chords of FACE DOWN IN THE GUTTER kick ass! The freakin’ tone drips with so much texture and taste it would make Gordon Ramsey blush. It transitions into a flat out rocker while the vocals take on a more condensed, urgent feel - a perfect fit. Skins monger Jason Reece performs rhythmic gymnastics on the kit while Dave Rangel ‘s bass runs are lockstep. A couple of timely fuzzed out reprieves in the middle and near the end paint a different perspective. Calise opens up the throttle on his otherworldly tone towards the end - just fucking epic intonations on the solo. Lots of way cool FX here too and he works the baby wah like he’s spankin’ a wayward bastard child. This stubborn number just does not want to quit!
HER SONG – if this song was written for somebody’s wife or girlfriend then she must be a pretty special person. It has a very delicate Pearl Jam-esque quality to the guitar sound and song structure. Supported by a magnificent background Hammond wash, the song explodes in a Billy Duffy inspired burst in the middle and again at the end before it returns to its original introspective roots. Once again, Jason Calise squeezes out an exquisite fuzzed out solo near the end dripping with thick, savoury overmodulated tone! This puppy’s spewing chunks. Up front backup vocals bring it home.
LIVIN’ AND LOVIN’ is a hard driving, raucous rocker with an intro. reminiscent of the opening of Rod Stewart’s “Stay With Me” - only on speed. Eventually things settle back into a steady rock groove augmented by a fun, quirky bridge. Total live show fist pumper.
MY PRIVATE HELL – the title speaks for itself and the distorted guitar drives the dark point home and then some. This dark little ditty’s a no holds barred, straight up, no bullshit rocker featuring even grittier vocals with no shortage of cowbell, a sweet chorus and a raunchy, rippin’ solo that’s a perfectly imperfect fit (you read that right). Things pick up toward the end as the pace morphs into a full on gallop. The Brought Low salute.
NO WAY BACK assaults your earholes with classic Bad Company/BTO type power chords right off the top. It’s a simple, catchy tune that will ignite crowds into a rousing round of the chorus at a live show. A tried, tested and true head banger for those down front.
The title track PINK CHAMPAGNE is a sweet, complex acoustic number that really smacks of the Screaming Trees in terms of feel and tone, highlighted by some newly minted, prominent, lip smacking female background vocals.
SHE DON’T WANT IT – the Valient Thorr inspired rolling riff off the top has you grasping for your pint of the good stuff and raising it in a collective salute to this hard chugging, tongue-in-cheek rocker that hollers out a delectable chorus once again smacking of the mighty Brought Low.
SINGLE STITCH is a great example of Black Earth’s superior song writing talent. Epic in the most pulchritudinous haunting way. Sublime reverbed mouth harp sets up the laid back feel of the song. About three quarters of the way through, the guitar chimes in with more outrageous , over-modulated fuzzed out tones on the solo. Finger lickin’ good!
SOMETHING ABOUT YOU is the longest song on the album and that’s a good thing. It’s a stunning piece of song writing. Right from the peeling opening chords and subsequent gloriously refined fuzzed out tones. Jason Reece works the kit like a blacksmith pounding out a heavy masterpiece with gorgeous fills. The song is intensely percussive and he attacks the skins once again like a mad rhythmic magician. There’s more than a scent of the mighty Brought Low on this number as well which is certainly a welcome influence. I also detect a slight Ray Davies/Kinks thing goin’ on too. The reprieve in the middle showcases some mouth watering, hollowed out voice work as the BE boys take us on an extended psychedelic magic carpet ride exploring distant sonic galaxies. This song is VERY indicative of what they’re capable of pulling off live. It moves to a full gallop about three quarters in, right through to a rowdy, fist frenzied finish.
“As the title Pink Champagne indicates, Black Earth has a lot to celebrate. Successful tours of Europe and the U.S. have allowed them to share the stage with killer bands from both sides of the pond like Blue Cheer, Throw Rag, Burning Brides, The Meatmen, Supersuckers, Red Fang, Early Man, Atomic Bitchwax, Gogol Bordello, Jimmy Chamberlain Complex, Peter Pan Speedrock, Jingo De Lunch, Sasquatch, Dixie Witch, Young Heart Attack and Nashville Pussy. Black Earth was also featured in Classic Rock Magazine's October Issue # 150 with their song “Face Down in the Gutter” added to the compilation ‘The First Cut is the Deepest”.
And so they raise a toast to you.
Black Earth is Jason “Ving” Calise on vocals and guitar, Dave Rangel on vocals and bass and Jason Reece on drums (also of “And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead”).