Barrence Whitfield and the Savages – Under the Savage Sky
Album review by Hannah of www.rockmycommute.com
The band’s website suggests that Under the Savage Sky “might be the most soulful punk record – or perhaps the most punk soul record you’ve ever heard”, and I’m not sure I can do a better job of describing this 12-song release of rambunctiousness myself! The album kicks off with “Willow” sounding a bit like the early White Stripes – I like the energetic abandon of Barrence Whitfield’s approach. He has a vocal style on this song almost like the monotone of the Beat Happening or LCD Soundsystem, while somehow being Elvis-y in a way that is really fun.
There is a little bit of 70s snazz on the next track – like Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride” or an Edgar Winter tune – something my parents would really like, but the rest of us would still enjoy. Track #3 called “The Claw” features dance-y horns, and a mouth full of soul not unlike a grittier and more raucous John Hiatt would be (if you could imagine such a thing). The next one has the classic rockabilly chord progression you’ll immediately recognize; with a great old-school recording style that sounds authentic and raw without seeming dated.
The sense of humor and playful wittiness exhibited by this group is evident not only in their musical style, but also in the song lyrics and titles – two of my favorite titles on the album are “Bad News Perfume” and “Incarceration Casserole”. So creative! Another one I liked the sound of was “Adjunct Street” – the song itself is a little bit more eerie and minor than the earlier tracks, with some creepy organ sounds evoking the Zombie’s old records, as Barrence warbles “I’m tired of living on adjunct street / where you can’t get no whisky neat / you know my neighbors they can be so unkind”…
Other song lyrics run the gamut of style and form, but you’ll hear select gems pop up like random references to everything from “a hollow leg” to “Pinochet”. I’ll need some more time to fully absorb everything that is going on here, but in the meantime I’m just rocking out to the music and enjoying it thoroughly!
Track #6 is probably my favorite, as a great example of the blending of old and new, and it is chock-full of college-band-level emotion and enthusiasm. You will not be able to stay still with all of this energetic organ vibrato peeking through! I’m hearing some similarities to Little Richard, the Zombies, and even The Doors on a lot of these other tracks – Barrence Whitfield and the Savages as a group have done their rock n’ roll homework! It is clear that this band knows how to throw down wild words to crazy music that supports it all, and really gets you in the mood to move.
If you can’t actually have this band playing at your party in the basement, the next best thing you can do is to make sure you are playing this album at your house whenever you want to give your guests a good time. If you’re in the Northeast right now then you’re in luck for catching a live show – there are some New England performance dates over the next couple of days before the band heads overseas for a European Tour. You absolutely must have this CD in your lineup for a back-to-school event or an end-of-the-summer shindig, to keep the impending doldrums of cooler weather at bay. Now, rock on!