Album: Double Exposure

Artist: D Charles Speer And The Helix

Label: Thrill Jockey

Release Date: February 25, 2014

Charles Speer 2-25




Doubled Exposure ends in a slouching, low-hitting boogie, the grime-crusted, whiskey-tilted swagger of “Tough Soup” taking this latest album from one-time NNCK-er Dave Shuford out in a round house punch, stars circling, cartoon birds tweeting. It’s a fitting climax to an album that lines up tumblers full of many different varieties of folk-brewed liquor, chugs them down and breathes them out with an intensity that could be lit with a match like a propane torch.


Here, in “Cretan Lords,” the retsin-scented guitar tremors from Shuford’s solo Arghiledes vibrate against an electric blues vamp redolent of Jack Daniels. There in “The Heated Hand,” a veneer of nightclub jazz sophistication slicks over a country two-step, like cracked ice cooling a serving of home-made moonshine. There’s even the sound of a bottle popping to open “Bootlegging Blues,” a dark, primitive slink through the dangerous side of country blues that recalls Charlie Feathers and Johnny Cash. And who knows what sort of intoxicants seep through the smoke and haze mysticism of “Mandorla at Dawn?” the album’s longest, loveliest track is a dead ringer for Rangda’s brand of mandala-spinning psych, though colored with twanging pedal steel.


The Helix, as before, draws heavily on the mad roadhouse piano of Hans Chew, whose manic pounding and agile lyricism shine a trebly light through the darkest corners of Shuford’s blues. Marc Orleans, on pedal steel, is another key player, gamboling playfully through “This Heated Hand,” then adding a viscous mystery to “Mandorla at Dawn.” The rhythm section – that’s Ted Robinson on bass and Steve McGuirl on drums – is fine, though not fancy, as well.  The band manages to sound half-inebriated and unbelievably tight at the same time, a loosely strung collaboration that is, nonetheless, completely in sync.


Shuford stands in front of this band of rowdies, his hollowed out baritone swinging out over intricate combinations of folk, blues, country, rock, Cajun and god knows what else, his skewed, oddball syncretic view of tradition taking the band into strange but hospitable corners. I’ll have what he’s having, even if you have to pull down every bottle on the shelf, and while you’re at it, make it a double.


DOWNLOAD: “Tough Soup” “Mandorla at Dawn”



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