In The Local this week, Nooga.com spends some time with music from Butch Ross, David Dewhirst, IronChief and Pack of Wolves. Who do you think should have a spot in The Local next week?
Butch Ross, “A Crash Bang Dulcimer Christmas”
Chattanooga multi-instrumentalist and mountain dulcimer maestro Butch Ross has tackled everything from Radiohead to Bach and come away with a renewed appreciation for what the humble dulcimer is capable of. No genre is off-limits, nor is there a limit to what Ross has envisioned for this specific instrument. The dulcimer is an unassuming thing, with a handful of strings and a history that feels embedded in the lineage of countless Appalachian musicians. But Ross has taken it and made it something more, something remarkable and versatile. His music is born from his respect for its abilities, a respect born from the years he’s spent prying apart its pieces and discovering new sounds where none existed before.
With the yuletide season upon us, Ross has released a collection of holiday-themed tracks. This record, “A Crash Bang Dulcimer Christmas,” is thankfully free of any sort of overt sentimentality and is a thoughtful and earnest noise in a sea of commercialism (just imagine Charlie Brown saying that and it sounds a lot more sincere). These songs are all familiar, but through his delicate finger work, Ross finds a way to make them feel new again. They live in the quick thrumming of his strings and in the memories we’ve attached to each track. If you’re not left smiling and feeling nostalgic by the time you hit “Angels We Have Heard on High,” maybe music just isn’t your thing.
David Dewhirst, “Ripple”
David Dewhirst is a singer-songwriter whose music transcends whatever expectations you might have about that description. His songs are definitely aware of their place within the vast history of the genre, but they’re not without a certain understanding of how best to undermine that same lineage. It’s traditional but also bucks convention in that the sounds are those common to the genre, but they’re assembled in rather ingenious ways. He adopts a simple but effective means of conveying vast stretches of emotion with the barest of efforts. That doesn’t mean the songs are rudimentary-they’re simply the product of an occasionally minimalist musical aesthetic, one that favors direct intent and execution over lavish and overly complicated production.
And with his recent song, “Ripple,” Dewhirst further this idea of simple but revelatory musical exploration. The song is bare-bones really, just a voice and an electric guitar. But it ably mines a rich vein of emotion and rhythmic ingenuity, despite its relative simplicity. All his music doesn’t necessarily adhere to this specific sound, but this track perfectly demonstrates what is possible when creativity and resolve combine to form a mutually beneficial racket. Regardless of whether this is a sound he’s going to pursue further in the future or whether he tackles something completely different, Dewhirst has earned the right to experiment with his already-impressive musical vision and reshape it as he sees fit.
IronChief, “Owl Holler”
IronChief is a Southern rock band-their music has its roots in the hills of Tennessee and feels like it should be played on front porches and enjoyed by friends who have known each other for years. But even that description lacks a certain specificity when it comes to exactly what the band sounds like. The term “Southern rock” conjures images of Lynyrd Skynyrd and 38 Special, but there is more to its rhythmic heart than the stereotypical sounds we commonly associate with it. The guitars crunch, the percussion hits your chest like a freight train, and an underlying complexity and honesty belie all our collective suppositions.
You can hear this melodic subversion on any number of their songs, but in particular, “Owl Holler” feels like an especially good example of how the band manages to do this. The guitars chug and rattle around in your sternum, but it’s the sense of unbridled exhilaration that really makes the track stick in your head for days. The lyrics are delivered in a twangy and communal capacity while maintaining a wonderfully melodic underpinning. The band takes their influences and asserts their will, which results in a sound that’s equal parts inspiration and adaptation. Superficially, we’ve all heard this before-Southern rock is a genre notorious for its homogenous nature, but IronChief takes this detriment and turns it into the basis of their own remarkable reconstruction.
Pack of Wolves, “Not Right Now”
The music of Chattanooga blues rock band Pack of Wolves starts slowly, with just the barest glimmer of the storm to come. But soon enough, the music rises and singer Tootsie Von Comare’s ferocious voice pushes everything away and you quickly become overwhelmed by the band’s immense sense of musical scale. There’s nothing small or subtle; their music is loud, wild and growls at you from the shadows before pouncing unawares. They combine a handful of genres to create something unique and rooted in their various preferences. But Pack of Wolves isn’t merely the vessel for a collection of influences; it’s a tangible medium for the expression of a truly refreshing and utterly singular musical perception.
The band is set to release an album of new material sometime in the new year, and you can hear some of the songs now through their website. In particular, “Not Right Now” is a perfect example of the band’s stunningly incendiary sound. Led by Von Comare’s rafter-toppling vocals, the track roars and stomps through a garage rock and blues landscape marked by an apoplectic rhythmic atmosphere. Constructed until each part glistens and is set afire in the morning sun, “Not Right Now” finds the band pushing past any sense of influence and becoming their own individual entity-there’s nothing and no one left to draw from. The band is fully on its own in terms of aesthetic, and they couldn’t be happier about it.
Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.