[Live at Glasslands in April 2011. Photo courtesy of EardrumNYC]
Warming us up for Howlin’ Rain’s set of modern classic rock two Wednesdays ago at Brooklyn Bowl was another band led by a musician of varied talents that draws its inspiration from an earlier time. D. Charles Speer & the Helix frontman Dave Shuford is also a player in No Neck Blues Band, the avant-garde New York-based improvisational collective that traffics in free jazz, experimental folk and noise rock, but the Speer clan travels the seemingly more familiar territory of country and Americana, albeit with their own dynamic style. Don’t call it alt-country – a term that now connotes suburban rock more than serious musical development. What Shuford and Co. are serving up is something else, incorporating Shuford’s experimental background, Southern roots (he is from Atlanta) and literary talent. If you don’t listen carefully, you could miss the shifting time signatures in one number, or that someone is using a Greek bouzouki to carve out an Appalachian riff in another, or that canny biblical reference. If you do listen carefully, you will discover a band that is anything but conventional, taking traditional Americana and making it weird again. This set at Brooklyn Bowl was hardly the best attended Speer set I’ve seen, nor is this venue the proper setting – a giant multipurpose bowling alley/restaurant/bar/music venue is kind of the opposite of a place to focus on music’s subtleties – but the band did a bang-up job anyway, with an eight-song set that jumped around the band’s catalog, including their 2011 release, Leaving the Commonwealth on Thrill Jockey. They are the type of band whose live and recorded experiences are very similar; Shuford’s deep, slightly mournful baritone (think David Berman, but deeper) isn’t the sort of thing you augment with studio trickery, and the band’s chemistry onstage is natural and deeply satisfying. This recording leans fairly heavily on the nicely-balanced soundboard feed provided by the Brooklyn Bowl house team, both in order to minimize the sounds of bowling and to give the listener an almost album-like experience of this band.
hi and lo and I recorded this set with the aforementioned soundboard feed and Schoeps MK41 supercardioid microphones. The results are excellent. Enjoy!
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D. Charles Speer & the Helix
Brooklyn, NY USA
Exclusive download offered at nyctaper.com
Recorded by hi and lo and acidjack
Produced by acidjack
Soundboard + Schoeps MK41>KCY>littlebox>Tascam DR0680>2x24bit/48kHz WAV>Audacity (mixdown, set fades, tracking, amplify, balance, downsample)>FLAC ( level 8 )
03 Days in the Kitchen
04 Le Grand Cochon
07 Freddie’s Lapels
08 Leaving the Commonwealth