SMOKE DAMAGE (Clayhead) Dick Smith
Okay, first of all, these cats are mighty whacked. But they're hella good. It's bluesy old timey, it's inbred urbane country, it's hell, I don't know what it is, but I'm diggin it. Some tunes even remind me of the really spooky cosmic country cuts of the Dead's Aoxomoxoa period, and that's a first.
I really dug this record when I played a few cuts, but then it got away from me in the deluge of releases that quickly followed. When I heard through the grapevine that Acoustic Guitar Magazine was allegedly calling it one of the top 3 DIY releases of the year, I dug it back out of the rubble.
One of the best record jackets I saw all year, definitely. All six panels had something really provocative or really funny, instead of some blurry photo or puzzling graphic with the lyrics printed too small to read. And there were no songs called naked, nude, bare, or stripped, I liked that, too. Their songs had names like "Chicken Hand," "Pissin Rain," "One Day They'll Shoot Me Down," and "Shitbox," a particularly good song that we'll include in the clips on the Listen page.
Dick Smith is a trio of pretty outside fellas from the Chicago area. Dave Ramont is on banjo, guitar, concertina, jug, and vocals. Bob Kuhn sings, plays mandolin and mandola, as well as nice guitar and crappy guitar (sic). Dave Nelson supplies the "Dobro, Larson reso-koa beauty, singin', mouth twanger, f-hole box full o' spooks and ghost helicopters, distressed harmonica, and cork." Not only all that, they are further buttressed by the Band o' Dicks as a rhythm section as well as on accordion and hanky, and Christopher W. Walke brought liquor and played lap steel.
I like these guys as much as the Be Good Tanyas or The Gourds, which is a lot. Like both of those great bands, they take old forms and play the hell out of them in new ways, with the humor and reckless abandon found more often in the originals than some of the purist interpretations. If you're not breathing new life into these old forms, you might as well be living on an airplane.
Smoke Damage rocks. Be the first one on your block to get it, here. FG