Saturday, February 12, 2011

Doug Deming & the Jewel Tones - Double Down

Doug Deming is one of those rare artists that perform and record for the SAKE of the music. A respect so real, so pure, that it simply cannot be denied. And it's reflected in Doug's style and approach to composition and in the way he lays it down on his debut recording for Mighty Tiger Records.

"Double Down" is a musical treasure - a recording of such rootsy eclecticism that it covers just about every form of American Music - from basic 12-Bar Blues, to Jump Blues and Swing, Jazz, and Rockabilly - twelve Deming originals that resonate with conviction and authenticity.
This is the real deal
And it reminds me what is possible when an artist stays true to his muse without being twisted and pulled by trends or gimmicks.
Deming has the looks and personal charisma of a modern day Elvis but he never trades off form for substance. And he doesn't sell out. He simply plugs in a lets the music take over... in a style that combines (Mose) Allison cool with T-Bone flash.
Deming writes in straight forward style and he's at his best when he writes those wonderfully concise and wicked metaphors or when he's "kidding on the square"

The disc opens with "Goodbye Baby", an uptempo slap-jackin' shuffle that jumps and swings like an ol' southbound rockin' & reeling and just about ready jump the track. Deming's guitar work is rich and sweet with nary a wasted note. Like such great guitarists as Emmanuel X Garza, Howard Glazer, Johnny Bassett, and Junior Watson, Deming plays with a musical economy that assures that less is more. Sound Rules this landscape as Deming tells the story of a failed romance. She is drinkin' and staying out all night despite her lover's plea, "please be good to me".

BlackJack" breaks out with some squealing harp from Brian Miller and a funked-up riff with prominent maracas in the mix. Doug sings,

"They call me blackjack baby 'cos I always make 21"
"When I cash in my chips, gonna have them on the run". In the coda, Deming intones like Alex Chilton circa 1987 (remember the Box Tops?)on Lowell Fulsom's "Make a Little Love". He raps some mighty fine smack, "Gonna have me a whole lot a money"
"We going out on the town"
" a big fine car"
" a big black Cadillac"
"ahhh, we gonna be ridin' in style..."

I don't know what it means but I'm sure it's NAUGHTY. A great soul stirrer.

"Bad For You" is a mid-tempo ode to love's mysterious allure. Gregg "Fingers" Taylor's wonderous harp drives the celebratory vibe - the musical equivalent to the excitement and primal thrill of new love. But the real-life tension of human relationships is revealed when Doug sings,
"You got my heart and soul and all my dough".
This blues rocker - like any great blues love song - contains ample amounts of paradox. She may be divine but she just may be doing him wrong. And he knows it - with a wink and a nudge.

"Make It Last" has a "Stormy Monday" vibe - a slow blues with a menacing organ backdrop (courtesy of the extraordinary Chris Codish). Deming sings about some pretty hard-won wisdom,
"When I was a young boy I ran through every door"
Lived every day like there'd be a million more"
"People told me try not to live to fast"
"You better make it last"

"Now that I'm older, thank the Lord for every day"
"See people abuse time in each and every way"
"Never concerned with the future or the past"
"They better make it last"
"I think I know just how it feels to push and not succeed
"You'll never win when you try to beat the clock"
"So take just what you need".

There is a moral in this story and it has a beginning and an end. But it's the journey that counts. Kudos to Brian Miller's exceptional harp work.

"You Don't Even Care" returns to an uptempo jump blues. Here Deming is positioned outside his pain as he sings about his lover's indifference and betrayal. The music's energy and spirit belie the singer's devastating message. This song R-O-C-K-S
And it contains one of the most exciting recorded instrumental jams in recent memory - as it reaches break-neck speed in a crescendo of sound and fury. A kick-ass blast to the sciatic nerve and a throttle to the limbic system.
Makes me wanna get up and jitterbug

"Let Me Be" sounds like it was recorded on a cheap two-track in 1950...a cool production technique that duplicates the sound of some of our earliest and best bluesmen and rockers. It recalls Dave Edmunds churning out "The Promised Land" on his Rockpile album way back in 1970. It's starkness is it's beauty. And Deming's upfront echoed and scratchy vocal is magnificent. The band stretches out on this one with guitar, harp, and piano all taking turns in the spotlight. Great track.

"HDF" is an instrumental that opens with pulsating bass guitar and drum on a Bo Diddley (cum the Troggs' "Gonna Make You") riff. Drummer Don Gruendler is given a prominent solo that is compared to Gene Krupa. I think it's more like Sandy Nelson's "Let There Be Drums".
But what do I know.
The excitement builds as the tempo accelerates and everyone joins in.

"On The Midnight Shift" has a slow syncopated beat and some deep wailin' organ that drives the sensual images provided by the lyrical metaphor.
"Be silent don't move"
"Pay the devil his due"
"Before we groove"
"Build it up make it strong"
"Just because it's wicked"
"Don't mean it's wrong"
"Turn it over"
"Deep and real"
"We're in hot production"
..."On the midnight shift" .

WHEW...I think it moved

"Mr. Blues" has drummer Gruedner pounding out the intro and Doug & the boys keeping the rhythm with a bomp-bomp beat worthy of Brian Wilson's "Don't Worry Baby" as stolen by the Byrds on "Mr. Tamborine Man". Deming is singing about problems with his lover...and it's his fault. He's singin' the blues but is confident she'll come back and give him another chance.

"It's a Crime" is thematically similar to "Goodbye Baby" but this song finds Doug stretching out with some of the purest tonal perfection this side of Junior Watson. This is a showcase for Deming's considerable skills as a guitarist. Roll over T-Bone give Doug Deming the blues!

"All About Digits" is Deming at his satirical best - doing the Mose Allison all over you when you least expect it
"Now your talkin' to a sweet thing at your favorite night spot"
"You wanna get her number 'cos she's lookin' pretty hot"
"You look down at your watch it's almost closing time"
"She's lookin' at your wallet is it worth a lousy dime"

"All about the digits baby"
"She's got no time to waste"

"You've been together for a year now"
"And it's been a real sweet thing"
"She's lookin' at her finger and she wants to see a ring"
"You go to see the banker to get a loan you can't pay"
"But now you've got that diamond it makes everything OK"

"All about the digits baby"
"She's got to no time to waste"

"Well she's lookin' though her planner"
"And she can hardly wait"
"She's finally got a ring"
"Now she wants to set a date"
"You look into your pockets and you pull out lead and sand"
"The preacher calls and says he needs another grand"

"All about the digits"
"She's got no time to waste"

"And now when the party is over she's quiet as a mouse"
"And then they serve those papers that say she's got half the house"
"Now the moral of the story as anyone can see"
"Be careful with those digits or you'll wind up just like me"...
My favorite track

The disc closes with "Double Down" a rockin' coda that combines all the best elements in Deming's considerable repetoire... he rocks and swings to a raucous conclusion.
And leaves us thirsty for another round.

Doug Deming and the Jewel Tones have crafted a sonic testimony to their willful embrace of authenticity. It's a profound statement for a musician to make by mining a balance between craft and talent and eschewing the more profitable potential of flashier styles.
Doug Deming seems almost unstoppable.... touring with swamp blues legend Lazy Lester and gigging up and down the state - from Detroit to all points North, South, East, and West. Deming's music is irresistable - once you hear him play, you become one of the initiated.
A true believer.
So if you haven't had the chance to experience the vibe and voodoo of Doug Deming and the Jewel Tones, the place to start is right here.

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