Album: Under the Savage Sky

Artist: Barrence Whitfield and the Savages

Label: Bloodshot

Release Date: August 21, 2015

Barrence 8-21

The Upshot: Twisted garage rock, Stax-influenced soul, weird skronky blues and even dollops of psychedelia from the Bosstown maestro.


Barrence Whitfield’s latest is a flaming, yowling, sax-blaring R ‘n B revival, with a dance-craze-in-a-box (“The Claw”), a hilarious take on prison-crossed love (“Incarceration Casserole”) and a clutch of late-1960s/early 1970s crate-digger covers. Staking out ground somewhere south of the Sonics (with whom Whitfield has toured), more Stax-influenced than the Dirtbombs and rawer than the Dap-Tones, Whitfield brings enough fire to skirt charges of homage. The first half of the album hews close to soul paradigms, but the second half opens out into psychedelically warped and weird takes on this skronky, blues-fed genre.

Whitfield plays with Peter Greenberg, his guitarist from his 1980s beginnings, who went on to play in Boston garage mainstays the Lyres and DMZ and then dropped out completely. The two of them have been together again since 2013’s Dig That Savage Soul, melding the diesel caked grit of no-frills garage with vamping, horn-blurting soul. That horn, by the way, belongs to one Tom Quartulli, a Berklee grad who fell for 1960s R ‘n B. He sounds, at times, like an entire line of reeds, locked in tight and boxy grooves where the end of the phrase tucks into the beginning of the next for relentless, syncopated motion.

I like the tumult and ferocity of the album’s first half, though I’m not sure the world needs another “Everybody do the [insert dance move here]” song or anything else entitled “Rock and Roll Baby,” ever again. But by its midsection, the album turns sulfurously eccentric with the 12/8 skank of “Adjunct Street,” Whitfield howling like Robert Carr. “Angry Hands” has a surreal, otherworldly grandeur to it, and show stopping “Full Moon in the Daylight Sky” takes its rough blues licks and ragged croons into a hollowed out dream world. This is good strong stuff that sounds like it comes from inside. It makes the earlier tracks seem like entertainment. Which is fine, as far as it goes, but Whitfield can do better.

DOWNLOAD: “Angry Birds” “Full Moon in the Daylight Sky”



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