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Dig Thy Savage Soul

Dig Thy Savage Soul

by Barrence WhitfieldBarrence Whitfield & the Savages


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Those outside who've lost track of the rowdy rock and R&B outfit Barrence Whitfield & the Savages can be easily forgiven for not knowing they re-formed in 2010 and cut the greasy, grooving Savage Kings for Spain's Munster Records. Now that the band has signed to Chicago's scrappy roots music label Bloodshot, Dig Thy Savage Soul is solid proof that not all musicians mellow with age. If anything, this is the wildest, rawest, most frenetic record in their catalog. Original guitarist Peter Greenberg and bassist Phil Lenker obviously went back and listened to early Link Wray, Johnny Burnett & the Rock 'n' Roll Trio, Big Joe Turner, Bo Diddley, Howlin' Wolf, and vintage punk rock. Whitfield's iconic voice is in excellent shape, preferring the more unhinged character in his instrument to fine effect. New Savages -- drummer Andy Jody and saxophonist Tom Quartulli -- add brazen energy and rugged, wily chops. Recorded in one day in October of 2012, these 12 cuts -- a fine balance of extremely well-chosen covers and originals -- cruise somewhere between 85 and 120 mph. Go no further than opener "The Corner Man," an in-the-red rocker, with unruly tenor sax and guest B-3 from James Cole with Greenberg's blasting guitar on top. Whitfield rasps and howls like a man possessed by Screamin' Jay Hawkins. "Oscar Levant," with its two-piece horn section (thanks to the addition of guest trumpeter Hitomi Taguchi), is careening R&B with killer double-time drums and Whitfield alternating between growl, scream, and soulful shouts. Their reading of Bobby Hebb's street-smart "Bread," had it appeared on an earlier Savages album, would have been less incendiary for the sake of "authenticity." The band doesn't stand on ceremony anymore -- and that's a great thing. Here, with the horns blaring and Beth Harris' wailing backing vocals, Whitfield and the band swagger, lurch, and strut chaotically, but never lose the groove. Their reading of "Hey Little Girl" is more Frankie Lee Sims than Professor Longhair (but there are hints in guest pianist Ricky Nye's rumbling left hand) channeled through punk and late rockabilly; it's one of Whitfield's finest performances on the date. The set closes with a completely off-the-rails reading of Jerry McCain's "Turn Your Damper Down," with the singer, Quartulli, and Greenberg all vying for control -- Barrence's crazy R&B howling wins. Dig Thy Savage Soul is everything a Barrence Whitfield & the Savages fan could hope for and more; it may even reel in followers of the Dirtbombs, Andre Williams, and the Detroit Cobras.

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Product Details

Release Date: 08/13/2013
Label: Bloodshot Records
UPC: 0744302020822
catalogNumber: 208
Rank: 116577


  1. The Corner Man
  2. My Baby Didn't Come Home
  3. Oscar Levant
  4. Bread
  5. Hangman's Token
  6. Daddy's Gone to Bed
  7. Blackjack
  8. Hey Little Girl
  9. I'm Sad About It
  10. Show Me Baby
  11. Sugar
  12. Turn Your Damper Down

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