Nightcrawlers – Dukin’ Out the Blues

January 01, 1970



Google the term “Nightcrawlers band” and you’ll get a
potentially confusing array of hits, including entries for Scottish DJ John Reid’s
house music project, an indie/alternative rock band based in Pennsylvania,
and of course the Florida
outfit that had a seminal garage-rock hit in the ‘60s with “Little Black Egg.”
It’s not the most obscure choice of a band name, in other words, although if
you actually take the time to roll the term “Nightcrawlers” around in your mind
a few times, it’s practically a foregone conclusion you’ll wind up at “sounds
like the blues to me.”


That’s the Nightcrawlers band at hand, and per the title of
their latest release, they’ve been dukin’ things out in various incarnations for
nearly three decades around the South and in the western mountains of North Carolina they call
home. A guitar-bass-drums-sax quartet (plus keyboards), on Dukin’ Out the Blues they get down to business right from the start
with a steely slice of sanctification called “I Believe” that, with its massed
horns, crying guitar and subtle-but-slinky organ fills, is pure Memphis ‘60s
soul crossed with late ‘80s Alligator Records.


Another obvious highlight is “Goin’ to Chicago” – you
guessed it, straight-up, Southside-style houserockin’ boasting a swaggering
lead vocal (namechecks of Wolf and Muddy, plus thumbs-up for Chicago’s
timelessness as blues mecca). “Why You Wanna Hurt Me” is a slower 12-bar
extrapolation, all smoky sax and nocturnal organ against a keening vocal that
brings to mind Buddy Guy’s signature wounded wail. And with “Coming Home” the
band shifts gears into celebratory Southern rock territory, Allmans-esque
guitars spiraling across a good-timey, soulful arrangement guaranteed to put a
smile on your face. These guys may claim to be dukin’ out the blues, but the
K.O. they’re aiming for is your heart, not your face.


Now aren’t you glad I cleared all that up for you? Of course,
you could’ve saved yourself a lot of trouble and instead of Googlin’ around on
the web, rang me up and I could’ve put you straight: guitarist Johnny House
just happens to be – full disclosure – my next door neighbor in Asheville. I distinctly
recall how a few years ago, one warm, sunny afternoon not all that long after
moving in, I heard the unmistakable sound of some biting, Albert King/Elvin
Bishop-styled blues licks coming from across the back yard fence. “Now that is a good omen,” I thought to myself,
smiling. We picked the right neighborhood.


Standout Tracks: “Goin’
to Chicago,” “Why
You Wanna Hurt Me,” “Coming Home” FRED MILLS


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