Thursday, March 2, 2017

Thee Arthur Layne – HVY DRT Vols 1 & 2



Chicago has a blues tradition, founded in the Delta blues stylings of musicians who travelled north to escape the Jim Crow laws of the southern states. It is the home to blues labels like Chess Records in the past and Alligator records currently, and can boast a literal who's who of blues greats such as Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. Chicago is also home to Thee Arthur Layne, who refer to themselves as a “scuzz rock” band, but to my ears they tap into the blues history and take the music to some interesting places.

They have released two singles, titled “HVY DRT”, Volumes 1 and 2. As there are only a total of 4 songs between the two releases, I thought I would write about them both. Maybe I should also tell you that I really love this band and I really want you to check them out.

“Volume One” starts out with “Father Friendly”, which has a bit of a scuzzy quality to it and for me is probably the most straight up rock song among the bunch. It also has a high quality groove to it, which is something that heavy music needs more of. In my imagination, these guys are up on stage in a hot, sweaty club, and when they drop any of these tunes, the groove is shaking every ass in the house.

The other side of this single is “Scorpion Crawl”. If these guys met Ol' Scratch at the crossroads to sell their souls for the blues, they also dropped acid together, and this song is the outcome. The track is bare bones and sparse at times, but when the time comes these gentlemen get heavy as fuck, and I dare you to stand still while you listen to this one. Singer Jason Walters is a revelation, going from smooth as butter to bringing down hellfire and brimstone. This tune will definitely grab your attention.

Moving on to “Volume 2”, we get into “Heavy Traffic”, which features some very tasty guitar work from Adam Scott. It puts me in mind a bit of Leslie West and Mountain. The song itself if bluesy workout but done by a band that has taken the basic blues and done their own thing with it. These two releases are roughly a year apart and you can hear that the band is very confident in what they want to do and how they put it across. You can hear the growth of the band between the first and second volumes. I like a band that knows what they want to do and are able to communicate that vision to their listeners.

“North Avenue Shakedown” is the flip side of this second single and my favorite track so far by these guys. It is by turns rough and raw, then smooth as silk. I can hear may influences in this one. The blues is there, of course, but also psychedelia, some garage rock, and some very interesting structure to the song. The guitar solo leads to an instrumental freak out, then a vocal only breakdown, and then a wind up to a perfect ending to an ambitious track like this.

This is some really quality music by a band that is getting better and better. I hope the good people of Chicago are taking notice and I hope this band is able to tour so I can see them in person. Do get your hands on this music. You can find it digitally on their Bandcamp site or you can buy physical copies at www.wholso.me/wax.

-ODIN




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