“… New takes on old songs, and the result is pure magic. The songs sound amazing and I’m grinning from ear to ear with pure joy.”
—Kier Byrnes, NOISE Magazine
Dana Colley and Jerome Deupree, the surviving members of Morphine, the seminal progressive rock band of the 1990s, have since played in several projects, but it wasn’t until the arrival of the New Orleans musician Jeremy Lyons on the Boston scene that they revisited the power trio format of two-string bass, baritone sax, and drums that was the signature sound of the original band.
Members of Morphine and Jeremy Lyons draw from the Morphine songbook as well as from Lyons’ deep immersion in Delta blues and New Orleans styles. Purists will wonder about a project minus the late Mark Sandman, Morphine’s founder, but as Kier Byrnes of Noise Magazine says, these are “new takes on old songs, and the result is pure magic. The songs sound amazing and I’m grinning from ear to ear with pure joy.”
The trio, which also plays under the moniker The Ever Expanding Elastic Waste Band, reaches far beyond simple nostalgia with their current work. They blend the bluesy base of Morphine’s grooves and the eclectic rhythms of Lyons’ Deltabilly fusion. Throw in a heavy dose of psychedelic rock and you get Morphine gone even swampier down-home. Or Delta blues in dreamland. In other words, Psycho-Delta Low Rock.
Colley (baritone sax) and Deupree (drums) backed Mark Sandman on the group’s debut record, Good, and the break-out follow-up, Cure for Pain. Deupree was replaced by Billy Conway but returned to play along side him on the final album, The Night. The distinctive sound that Colley gets from his electronically-treated bari sax mark such projects as Twinemen and A.K.A.C.O.D . Deupree’s improvisational prowess and super-charged drumming call to mind the likes of Mitch Mitchell or Bill Bruford and has been a staple of the Jeff Robinson Trio at the Lizard Lounge Poetry Night for over ten years. He’s also appeared with Orchestra Morphine, Either Orchestra, and The Humans.
|In July 1999 Sandman collapsed on stage while playing with the group at the Nel Nom Del Rock Festival in Palestrina, Italy. He died of a massive heart attack at age 46. Ten years later, Colley was invited to bring a band back to play the very stage on which Sandman had passed away. Colley and Deupree had been playing with Lyons at various gigs, so they asked him to go, even though he had never before played a Morphine song. Yet the three rehearsed the catalogue, and Lyons commissioned a two-string slide bass a la Sandman. The show was a great success, and the band continues to play together.
Lyons, a master slide guitarist, singer, and songwriter, played the streets and clubs of New Orleans from 1992 until he was washed out by Hurricane Katrina. In this project he plays electric guitar and two-string slide bass. He invented Deltabilly, a rockabilly/surf/Delta blues fusion, which specializes in fast finger picking and slide guitar. He met Deupree and Colley while restarting his career after his relocation to Boston (chronicled in the song, “Hurricane”). Deupree quickly became his first-string drummer, and Colley soon joined in. “Dana extended a hand of friendship. He loves New Orleans, and understood my post-Katrina state of mind,” Lyons says.
Some collaborations seem fated. Colley still has a journal from an early ’90s Morphine tour in which he took notes about a band playing on the streets of the French Quarter. Lyons appears in a Polaroid picture of the band that accompanies the notes, although the two didn’t actually meet until 2005. When Deupree listened to some of Lyons’ earlier discs (Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch; Live at the Dragon’s Den; Jeremy Lyons and the Deltabilly Boys; and Live at Fribourg), he recognized the hand of his old friend Mark Bingham, the renowned producer. In 2010 they added New Orleans horns to some tracks for the new disc with Bingham, which brought that connection full circle. The trio plays regularly in the Boston area and makes selective appearances nationally.
The debut CD features live and studio tracks, four of Sandman's songs re-worked, three originals by Lyons, as well as live improvisations.