Photos and Review by Chandler Mays
The passionate sounds of Tennessee’s finest rained down upon The Loft last Friday night. I found myself in the beating heart of a packed house, lubricated and primed to boogie down to a buffet of bluesy southern rock badassery. The Delta Saints of Nashville heated the crowd up with a highly stimulating set of raucous blues rock that had a severe punk rock attitude. Ben Ringel’s vocal prowess knocked everyone’s boots off, as he would flawlessly switch stylings from a guttural heavy-metal howl to a clean, soulful croon, then to a raspy blues voice reminiscent of Tom Waits or Ben Nichols. I also have to give much respect to Stephen Hammer, the band’s master harmonica player who dropped my jaw and raised both my eyebrows on multiple occasions. Seriously, move over John Popper, Hammer brought down the hammer.
The crowd was helpless after The Delta Saints softball-tossed us over to The Dirty Guv’nahs, who came fully prepared to knock it out of the park. Hailing from Knoxville, this southern rock band has slowly built a committed grassroots fan-base over the years. In 2009, they received a last minute invite to play at Bonnaroo Music Festival, which they accepted. That performance contributed to receiving a proposal to record their second album, “Youth Is In Our Blood”, at Levon Helm’s recording studio in Woodstock, New York. Since then, The Dirty Guv’nahs have become a freight train of momentum, continually gaining fans and wowing audiences with their live shows. On top of that, they’ve been voted Best Band in Knoxville, Tennessee for five consecutive years.
The Dirty Guv’nahs opened with We’ll Be The Light off of “Youth…”, which begins with a foot-stomping rock riff that immediately inspired the crowd to start grooving. The song is perfectly crafted with a great drumbeat, and the guitar melodies are always in the right place. As frontman James Trimble passionately sang, “Put your hand in my pocket, I’ll be your favorite song,” I noticed a trio of young ladies next to me swooning to his vocals. I distinctly heard one of them yell, “Oh my god, he’s SO hot!” I consequently felt a strong feeling of jealousy wash over me, then proceeded to Charlie Brown over to the bar for another beer as I vowed to get some wavy hair, grow a beard, and learn to sing with soul… and start a rock band.
The Guv’nahs then played a handful of new songs from their latest album, “Somewhere Beneath These Southern Skies”, which is a 14-track collection of rip-roaring southern rock jams. I really enjoyed Temptation, in which James Trimble howls that temptation is something he doesn’t need. The song reminded me of that classic 90’s alt-blues sound from The Black Crowes’ heyday. It was during the song Walk With Me, also from “Youth…”, that I noticed the amazing talent of Chris Doody, the band’s resident keyboardist. Pounding out ragged chord progressions, I couldn’t help but focus on his fingers through the entire song. It was truly a marvel to watch. Towards the end, as the song crescendoed, Chris started forcefully slapping the keys, which sounded tremendous as the band grew with intensity.
The other Dirty Guv’nahs members were also remarkable craftsmen, playing with each other in excellent synchronization. I was quite impressed with the tasty guitar stylings of Cosmo Holloway, who took us to his factory of fresh licks time and again. I truly adored how at times Cosmo would stare at the neck of his guitar and play with such extreme focus. Sometimes I wondered if he even knew he was standing in front a giant crowd as his fingers flashed across the frets, sending the crowd into a frenzy. His greatest moment came towards the end of the set, when the band played Afternoon Eyes, one of their older tracks. The song is essentially a balls-to-the-wall rock ‘n’ roll freakout in which all the musicians pound away on their instruments for six minutes straight, and as the song builds with intensity, so does Cosmo’s shredding. By the end of it, you’re not even dancing anymore. All you can do is stop and stare while your face slowly melts away.
After such a strong set, the crowd of course whooped and hollered for an encore, which The Dirty Guv’nahs gracefully indulged us with. They brought out members from The Delta Saints and delivered two magnificent covers, the first being John Prine’s Angel From Montgomery. The second cover was a killer rendition of With A Little Help From My Friends, not the Beatles version, mind you, but the Joe Cocker version. Being such a loyal Beatles fan, I feel like a blasphemer when I say that I think Joe Cocker’s version is just as good as the original… Okay, I’m glad I wasn’t struck down for that admission. Anyway, next time you get the chance to see The Dirty Guv’nahs or The Delta Saints, I recommend you buy a ticket.
Full Gallery after the jump…