Diving headlong into some of the 1970s’ most iconic songs, Swamp Cabbage decided to use vintage techniques and vintage instruments. The results?: A kudzu-covered blast of trailer-park funk.
Of course, going in, there was no denying the passion of guitarist Walter Parks, bassist Jim DeVito and drummer Jagoda. These guys were committed, all the way down to their rare Guild guitars and old Gretch drums. The question was whether they could — as a three piece recording directly to tape, with no overdubs — adequately translate songs originally put forward by sprawling Southern rock amalgams, afro-shivering soul-man orchestras and iconic Rock and Roll Hall of Famers.
They do. Through sheer force of a knee-knocking, grease-popping, house-rocking will to fun, Swamp Cabbage does.
In fact, some of it almost comes too easy, like their titanic combining of Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein” and the Allman Brothers Band staple “Whipping Post” — more than seven minutes of deep-fried fatback bayou blues. Swamp Cabbage also offers an unnostalgic reminiscence on “Little Martha,” a standout cut by the late Duane Allman.
[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Though it's all done with a dash of humor, Swamp Cabbage's standout 2004 album 'Squeal' showed they were serious about spreading the gospel of blues, vintage jazz and country.]
As good as they are, though, tracks like those — steeped as they are in the Deep South ethos — aren’t where Drum Roll Please is at its most interesting. That comes when Swamp Cabbage approaches R&B favorites from the polyester era: The Average White Band’s “Pick Up The Pieces” is jazzed up with a more prominent second-line rhythm — and a knife-edged series of riffs where bright horns once blasted. Their tight, tough version of Isaac Hayes’ “Theme from ‘Shaft’ retains all of the original’s groove, even while giving it a grimy sense of biker-bar menace.
Finally, there are a couple of mythical classic rock bands to contend with: “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” with a scorching guitar lick in place of the Who’s iconic synthesizer signature, is transformed into a ZZ Top style blues-rock stomper. Then, there’s “Black Mountain Side,” the polyrhythmic instrumental from Led Zeppelin’s self-titled debut. The song is ready made for Drum Roll Please, and as such doesn’t break as much new ground.
Still, as with every old-school track here, it arrives absolutely ablaze — like a shot of white lightning, and with just as much kick.
Swamp Cabbage will be performing a free show at midnight on Saturday, July 28, 2012, at New York City’s Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 2, to celebrate the release of ‘Drum Roll Please.’ Information: 212-477-4155; or http://www.rockwoodmusichall.com/.