Philly Band Try to Keep the Twang Torch Burning. Here’s a find, sneaking out as a self released album sold by the band, DeSoto Rust describe themselves as a "twang band” with a mission to bring back roots-rock music in their area (Philadelphia, if you ask). And by any yardstick they generally succeed with an assured sound and songwriting that is way above what one generally expects from a band with no label backing. The album jumps out of the starting gate with “Morgan Rhule”, a hard rockin’ train song with the singer “Cursin’ and a drinkin’, sweatin’ and a bleedin” while shovelling coal on a train with the eponymous hero. Immediately the band sound like a cross between Creedence and Steve Earle with powerful drawled vocals and a killer riff. Several other songs continue in this vein with stories of hard drinking men, hard luck stories and trucks, with great riffs and roaring vocals. Standouts are “Can’t Sleep at Night” where the bass guitar propels the tune as if it’s barreling down the highway and “Austin Lights” where lyrics such as “And they try to push that kodachrome, Shootin’ blanks and changin’ robes, It’s black and white to me” are enigmatic and evocative at the same time. Many bands would be content to fill their album with such fare but DeSoto Rush can tap into a more reflective and laid back style also and these songs are the icing on the cake here. “For What It’s Worth”, with female harmonies by Christine Havrilla, is a jaunty lament by two ex-lovers looking back on a relationship with excellent country fiddle playing as the pair duet like some rhinestone sparkled couple. Best of all is “100 Year Flood”, a story about the perils of living by a river (The Mississippi?) and having to watch the water level, knowing that one day your life’s work could be washed away. Here they sound almost like The Band in their heyday. The album finishes with the one cover, a nice bar band rendition of “Close Up the Honky Tonks”, exit, heads held high. With two vocalists to add light and shade and some very assured playing the band sound confident and deserve to be heard. For a self released album this is mighty impressive and deserves to find a wider audience than the lucky ones attending their concerts.
© 2005 Americana UK
3rd Coast Music
Very disarmingly, these Philadelphia-based roots rockers don't dream of world domination, they're perfectly happy to share the Delaware Valley. "American roots music is making a strong comeback," says lead guitarist David Otwell, "and we want to be one of the bands making it happen in this area." However, with a distinctive sound and three members who can sing and write strong songs, Otwell (one), rhythm guitarist Ray Hunter (seven) and bass player Mike Simmons (four), with drummer Dave Reeve staying in the background, they deserve to be more ambitious. Simmons, who also produced and mixed, wrote the standouts, 100 Year Flood and For What It's Worth, but the material, all original except for Red Simpson's Close Up The Honky Tonks, hits a very high standard for a band that's barely a year old but which can sound like The Band at its best. - John Conquest
Big Rock Joke Doll
Big Rock Joke Doll # 3
Aug 1, 2005
Big Rock Joke Doll #3
-by Steve Fritz
TITLE: DESOTO RUST
SUBTITLE: THE AWFUL TRUTH ABOUT PHILADELPHIA
Philadelphia is the fifth-sixth largest city in the U.S. According to the Census it sports over 6 million denizens. It's also one of the least known towns for rock'n roll in the universe (and don't count all the Dick Clark payoff/American Bandstand/Cameo-Parkway garbage).
For that, children, it's time to look back a few centuries.
Located in a valley smack dab between two rivers, the Delaware and the Schuykill, if I remember my topography correctly, it's a good thing that Southern New Jersey is between Philly and the Atlantic Ocean. Most of the city is actually below sea level. If global warming continues for a little longer, Philadelphia will become the new Atlantis. It was primarily swamp the first century after Columbus went looking for India; and also a breeding ground of typhus, cholera and other diseases. Even the Native Americans in the area didn't actually set up their villages there. They moved to the 'burbs.
Contrary to myths now popularized in your high school history texts, The City of Brotherly Love wasn't founded by William Penn. True, the land was seeded to ol' Bill by King Charles II (and Willie boy forgot some major debts the king owed him), but that was years after the Dutch and Swedes had already settled it in the late 17th Century.
Now let's give Penn his props. Before he moved to Philly, he knew the area needed a major makeover. The Swedes and Dutch didn't build houses or any other form of decent domiciles. They dug huge holes in the ground and set up camp that way. If the water table got too high, they'd move a few feet and dig another.
Penn figured a little marketing probably wouldn't hurt. He came up with the name Philadelphia. He brought in other smart people and they designed an exceedingly modern metropolis with wide streets and easy access to both enter, and more importantly, leave.
The problem was you're dealing with people who couldn't get their heads above sea level even if they stood on the roofs of their underground abodes. This causes an extreme case of short-sightedness where Rocky Balboa, Frank Rizzo and Dave Schultz are revered as gods. Heck, even Dick Clark got the hell out of Dodge as soon as he was assured Bandstand was a national show. Problem is, most other Philadelphians can't grasp this.
Now when you have over 6 million people within your greater metropolitan area, there MUST be some talent there. The jazz/R&B/hip-hop side of Philly proves this in deuces. It's roll call include John Coltrane, Gamble &Huff, Hall &Oates, Will Smith, even Pink( editor's note: Pink??????) among many, many others. This side of the music industry realizes the only way they get known is, like Clark, to leave. For some reason the rockers just don't get it.
The last act from Philadelphia to have any impact were the Dead Milkmen. They did it by getting a van and doing it the old-fashioned way of touring,touring and more touring, using whatever their product was to help them get more tour dates. The previous band to do this was the one hit wonders, the Soul Survivors, who did Expressway To Your Heart (oddly enough produced by Gamble &Huff). Don't give me the bit that Todd Rundgren. He actually comes from the nearby township of Upper Darby and he didn't make it until he split from his legendary act The Nazz to move to Woodstock, NY.
Now let me repeat myself. It's not because Philadelphia doesn't have talent. It has tons. When I "lived" there, I saw many a great band, from Mandrake Memorial to Good God, Baby Grand to Ken Kweder, The Stickmen, Bunnydrums, King of Siam, Ruin, the Little Gentlemen (wait...they were from Ardmore), Scram! and a bunch more. The problem with all these bands were, like the Swedes and Dutch, they were all collectively incapable of getting their heads above sea level. They couldn't realize the town was actually designed to be left behind. Nearby cities like New York, D.C., even Wilkes-Barre might as well been other planets.
That might be changing though. The reason that might happen is named DeSoto Rust.
Formed by four guys who'd been around the Philadelphia area since the 80's,DeSoto Rust aligned itself with the American Roots (they call it "twang") rock movement. Their first, self-released, CD (simply entitled DeSoto Rust) harkens to John Forgerty's CCR, The Band and the Blasters (w/Dave Alvin on lead guitar).
Formed only last year, the band already has established itself as a hard-working road outfit. They've played everywhere from arty bar establishments as New Hope, Pennsylvania's institution Jon &Peters to holes in the walls west of their home base. I believe they've even crossed the state line into New Jersey and Delaware.
More important their debut CD is starting to track nationally. It's #11 on the Freeform American Roots chart, even as far as the Euro-Americana chart. One listen and you can see why.
DeSoto Rust has a strong penchant for whiskey. Kentucky single malt, Tennessee sour mash, Canadian, what have you. One of the tracks on the CD is even called "Jim Beam." A stunt the band likes to pull when they play live is to have the bartender give each member of this quartet a minimum double shot of something strong and neat. From there, the bartender makes his money back in spades as the band encourages the audience to have at least one (preferably more) shots with them.
But this isn't a band who's material is primarily comprised of songs to cry in one's boilermakers. "100 Year Flood" is the type of song a member of The Band would have been proud to have penned. "Runaround" is a ballsy mid-tempo rocker that stomps with confidence. The topper is "5 on 7," a country-tinged two-step that segues wonderfully with Credence's "Lodi," both in spirit and content.
Not that we should expect to see DeSoto Rust doing O Brother Where Art Thou Mach 2 any time soon. Lead guitarist David Otwell has a bit of legendary guitarist/music historian Bob Quine in his solos. Bass player Mike Simmons can write wonderfully compelling pop songs. Vocalist Ray Hunter matches his gravelly outings with solid songwriting on his own. This leaves drummer Dave Reeve, who does a good job of holding it all together while keeping a steady pattern.
In other words, make no mistake, this is a rock band. Still, I'd probably love it if T-Bone Burnett would take some time to put these guys in his studio. I'd bet the record would be epic.
In the meantime, the band is going to be cutting the number of gigs they're doing to start recording their second CD. All their road work has made them super tight, but the band is now brimming with new ideas to try out. From there, don't be surprised if DeSoto Rust starts looking beyond the greater Delaware Valley to true artistic triumph.
In the meantime, if you like your music the way I like my Jack Daniels, go to DeSoto Rust's website (www.desotorust.com) and order their CD. Like a good pull from the bottle, you'll find it goes down smooth and then kicks like a mule when you start to move.
Who knows? When they come home they can then teach the rest of the talent in Philadelphia what the rest of the world is like.