When discussing the history of Chattanooga’s ever-evolving music scene, you’ll eventually circle around to Mark “Porkchop” Holder, a founding member of blues-punk band The Black Diamond Heavies. Carrying the mantle of archetypal bluesmen like Robert Johnson and Mississippi Fred McDowell, while also slinging the caustic bite of The Clash and rock weight of Black Sabbath, Holder and his band (bassist Travis Kilgore and drummer Doug Bales) roar through the wilds of old-school blues, rock and punk.
It’s only been nine months since we last heard from Holder, on the occasion of the release of his last record, “Let It Slide,” a collection of blues-minded rock songs that speaks to his extensive history with the genres that provided such an inspiration to him over the years. He’s back with “Death and the Blues,” another dense mash of electric rhythms and burning riffs that explore the connections that exist between older artists—he covers Don Nix and Junior Kimbrough, and tackles a traditional song originally recorded by Marty Robbins—and their influence on more modern interpretations of their work.
On his latest single, “Captain Captain,” he stomps his way through a scorching blues jam that would make Howlin’ Wolf proud. Anchored by fiery harmonica and blazing guitar licks, the song does justice to Holder’s influences by preserving their spirit but also contains a good deal of his own manic creativity. The drums clomp along as wonderfully wonky bass lines shuffle from one verse to the next; it’s a perfect example of how each member adds a distinct personality to the music.
Recorded at Tiny Buzz in Chattanooga, the track feels far more incendiary than anything on his last album. The band approaches “Captain Captain” with teeth bared and fingers tracing lightning along strings and across drumheads. Holder and the band never lose their focus, getting inside the bones of their influences so that they can properly distill the essence of those sounds. Coursing with a dynamic blues resolution, it certainly makes the case that these particular rhythms and tones sit at the center of all modern rock aesthetics. And we should all be glad that musicians such as Holder, Kilgore and Bales are willing to breathe life into them for our benefit.
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.