Friday, November 29, 2013

Jingle Bell Rocks!

I first met Mitchell Kezin four years ago at Toronto's Lee's Palace when he was filming one of El Vez's legendary "Mex-mas" shows for a documentary he'd been working on for a while, Jingle Bell Rocks!

I had assumed my Santez alter-ego for the evening and Kezin interviewed me for his film about alternative Christmas music. That clip, with good reason, was eventually edited out of the film as it went through a number of changes that continued to delay its finish. But Kezin and I became friends and kept in touch as I sent him a few ideas, photos and videos for possible use in the film (which, probably again with good reason, weren't used), and I was trying to set up an interview between the filmmaker and Stompin' Tom Connors just before the Canadian music icon passed away on March 6.

Kezin kept me updated on the film's progress through emails and occasionally over beers on the few occasions when his busy travel schedule for shooting the film would allow a get-together. And I'm happy to report that Jingle Bell Rocks! is now finally finished and making its world premiere at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam this week.

The Canadian theatrical rollout begins next week, TVO will air Jingle Bell Rocks! at some point for Ontario television viewers, and it will appear at American film festivals throughout next year before receiving its theatrical release south of the border in December 2014.

While Jingle Bell Rocks! has plenty of both the kitschy songs and previously unknown-to-me musical gems that I expected, what really got me was the poignancy of many of its scenes and stories -- particularly Kezin's tale of how his father was seldom around as a child and he identified with Nat King Cole's "The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot."

Twenty years later, Kezin later discovered a 1962 album titled Jingle Bell Jazz, which featured a cynical song called "Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern)" that Bob Dorough had written and sang on the record by request of Miles Davis. It was a Christmas song for those who aren't particularly impressed with Christmas, and it launched Kezin on a largely secretive, quarter-century quest to find and collect honest and real Christmas songs and other "hip, heartfelt and irreverent" seasonal tunes you don't hear on the radio or in the mall every December. In the process, he found he wasn't alone in this obsession. And Jingle Bell Rocks! features some of these collectors, some of the songs that mean the most to them, and some of the people who recorded them in the first place.

Most of these collectors aren't like the eccentrics who amused and sometimes frightened me in Toronto filmmaker Alan Zweig's 2000 documentary Vinyl, but are seemingly socially adept and normal people who just happen to have an extraordinary passion for Christmas music.

Mitchell Kezin and Wayne Coyne

You'll hear reminiscences from both well- and little-known folks, including Dorough, former Def Jam Records publicist Bill Adler, Canadian radio host David Wisdom, record producer Tommy LiPuma, Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne, The Free Design vocalist Sandra Dedrick, "naughty" soul singer Clarence Carter, cult film director John Waters, punk-cabaret genius El Vez, Run DMC's Joseph "Run" Simmons, novelty song collector Dr. Demento, minimalist indie duo Low, and many others.

Perhaps the most moving part of the 93-minute film takes place in a recording studio above Charlie's Calypso City record store in Brooklyn, where calypso legend Mighty Sparrow fulfills Kezin's wish by recording "The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot" as the film director tears up with emotion as he looks on.

Mitchell Kezin, Joseph "Run" Simmons and Bill Adler

Musically, what pleased me most was the inclusion of Plan 9's gritty 1984 garage-psych nugget "Merry Christmas," which instantly grabbed me when I first heard it on a mix tape a friend made for me back then. Other favourite tunes that get the spotlight treatment in Jingle Bell Rocks! and will likely be unfamiliar to many include Jessie Mae Hemphill's "Merry Christmas, Pretty Baby," Carter's "Back Door Santa" (which Run DMC sampled for "Christmas in Hollis"), Paul "Fat Daddy" Johnson's "Fat Daddy Claus," El Vez's "Santa Claus Is Sometimes Brown," Heather Noel's "Santa Came On A Nuclear Missile" and The Flaming Lips' "A Change at Christmas (Say It Isn't So)."

Whether you identify more with Scrooge or Saint Nick, you should find songs and people you can relate to in Jingle Bell Rocks!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Beer and more from Gourmet Food & Wine Expo

Toronto's Gourmet Food & Wine Expo keeps growing annually and has become one of my favourite events of the year. A wide range of vendors offers a variety of foods, condiments and alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks to sample for a reasonable price, while seminars held throughout the four-day event enable folks to learn more about subjects of particular interest to them.

Beer has always been of particular interest to me, so chatting with various breweries and beer distributors is how I spent most of my two days at the expo. I didn't taste anything horrible, but there were a number of average products and, luckily, some excellent ones as well.

Here's what caught my attention at the 19th annual Gourmet Food & Wine Expo:

Six Pints Black Lager
This style is based on Germany's Schwarzbier. It's colour befits its name and it pours with a small head. It's five-per-cent alcohol and rates a 23 IBU on the bitterness scale. Espresso and bitter chocolate are the predominant flavours in this medium-hopped brew that some people may be able to drink more of in one sitting than a heavier porter or stout.

Red Horse Beer
This extra strong lager is brewed in Manilla, Philippines by San Miguel Brewery. It's pale and poured with a little head. It's seven-per-cent alcohol and had a hint of tinniness even though it came from a bottle. There was a slight sense of the higher alcohol content in the aroma and flavour, but it went down relatively easy. The booth had a DJ and energetic servers, and San Miguel was generously making a donation for each bottle finished (it had other brands aside from Red Horse available) to support relief efforts from Typhoon Haiyan.

Mill Street Distillery Ale
This dark copper-coloured brew is fermented with English Ale yeast to give it a mild aroma and a hint of pear and apricot in the flavour. It's 5.8-per-cent alcohol, somewhat malty from caramel and chocolate malts and, while it's easy drinking, it lacks a distinct character.

Mill Street Weizenbock
This pours with a grey head that doesn't last long, but it offers a nice fruity bouquet. This unfiltered wheat bock is somewhat sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. The 7.5-per-cent alcohol content isn't evident in the flavour, and it leaves you with a very nice finish.

Mill Street Vanilla Porter
This brown/ruby red porter pours with an effervescent head and provides a distinctive vanilla bouquet. It offers rich vanilla and coffee flavours and a smooth and creamy body. The lovely lingering after-taste makes you want to take another sip almost immediately. I can see myself drinking this five-per-cent porter all night. This was my favourite beer of the expo and, even better, I was given a coupon that I could redeem for a free can at the LCBO.

Nickel Brook Bolshevik Bastard
This imperial stout is black and pours with a grey head. I'd previously tried the brewery's Kentucky Bastard, which is the same brew but aged in bourbon barrels. It's made with a blend of roasted barley, chocolate and amber malt, has a mild bouquet and the taste offers hints of chocolate and coffee. It's surprisingly smooth for a nine-per-cent beer, while providing some crispness and an easy finish. This is another one worth recommending.

Maisel's Weisse Original
This traditional Bavarian-made weissbier is pumpkin-coloured and presents a fruity and spicy aroma. It's a very full-bodied, 5.4-per-cent alcohol beer with banana and bubble gum flavours and a very good finish. Wheat beer drinkers should like this.

Maisel's Weisse Dunkel
The sibling of the beer above is copper-coloured and produces a nice head and pleasant aroma of banana and cloves. This 4.9-per-cent beer is brewed with a blend of wheat and gently roasted, caramelized malt and makes a great spring or fall beer, as it has more body than a more summer-oriented weissbier but isn't as heavy as the weizenbocks preferred by some in the winter.

Maredsous 8 Brune
The 8 in the name is the alcohol volume of this Belgian dubbel. The brown, bottle-conditioned ale is top-fermented and brewed according to Benedictine tradition, and then refermented in the bottle and conditioned for two months. I'm generally not the biggest fan of this style, but enjoyed this. It pours with a rich head and has a very fruity aroma. Dark berries are a major part of the pleasantly sweet flavour before a slightly bitter aftertaste takes over.

Samuel Adams Latitude 48 IPA
This six-per-cent alcohol IPA is brewed with a dry-hopped blend of German, English and American hops from regions located to close to 48 degrees latitude. The hops are evident in the aroma of this dark copper-coloured beer along with a touch of citrus. It's not overly hopped and the malt adds a hint of sweetness, which makes it a good option for folks who find west coast IPAs a little too much.

Royal Jamaican Ginger Beer
I've heard this described as the best alcoholic ginger beer in the world, and I can't argue with that. This beer is brewed in Kingston, Jamaica with Cascade hops, Jamaican ginger and cane sugar, and Royal Jamaican new crop rum. The ginger dominates the aroma and flavour and gives this a very crisp quality. It's spicy, but not overpoweringly so. And with just 4.4-per-cent alcohol, you can drink quite a few without getting too tipsy.

Spearhead Jamaican Fire
This dark, eight-per-cent stout has a 35 IBU rating on the bitterness scale and is brewed with coffee, oranges, sugar cane and scotch bonnet peppers -- with that last ingredient giving the taste and bouquet a definite kick. It's spicy but it won't knock you on your butt.

Spearhead Belgian Stout
This six-per-cent alcohol stout is made with six types of malt, three types of hops, trappist ale yeast and demerara sugar, Curacao orange peel and coriander. This creamy, unfiltered stout pours with a decent head and has a delicate, peppery introduction and a dry finish.

Moosehead Boundary Ale
This medium-bodied, copper-coloured ale is a cross between American- and British-styled pale ales that's made with four types of hops and seven different malts. The 5.3-per-cent alcohol beer has a very mild sweetness and was better than I anticipated, since I'm not a fan of its better known lager.

Pistonhead Kustom Lager
This Swedish beer features a flaming skull on the can and was being promoted by scantily-clad women with tattoos at the expo, so it will obviously trying to promote itself as a beer with edge when it arrives in Ontario beer stores in December. It pours gold with a mildly hoppy aroma from Spalter Select, Magnum and Perle hops and some nice maltiness from Munchener and Pilsener malts. It's an easy-drinking, 4.6-per-cent alcohol beer that seems better suited for summer, so I'm not sure that it's launching at the best time and the image seems incongruent with the product.

Ciuc Premium
I believe this is the first Romanian beer I've ever had. It's a pale gold and reasonably crisp pilsner with a hint of hoppiness. It's five-per-cent alcohol and would work best as a summer sipper.

Lake of Bays Top Shelf Classic Lager
The most noteworthy thing about this 4.5-per-cent alcohol beer is that it's the official beer of the NHL Alumni Association. It's an American-style pale lager that would be best suited for summer.

Niagara Oast House Brewers Saison
This Niagara-on-the-Lake brewery was my favourite discovery of the festival, and this 6.5-per-cent alcohol farmhouse ale was my favourite of its three beers that I sampled. It comes in a corked 750-millilitre bottle and is unfiltered and bottle-seasoned, which accounts for its slightly cloudy appearance. It has a fruity yeast aroma and some spicy citrus in the flavour. Excellent.

Niagara Oast House Brewers Barn Raiser Country Ale
This gold-coloured, five-per-cent alcohol ale is excellent as well. It poured with a decent head and had a citrus aroma and flavour. It's well-hopped, but not enough to scare away non-hop heads.

Niagara Oast House Brewers Pitchfork Porter
This dark brown porter pours with a rich head. It's fairly malty and robust and has a slight smokiness about it. Dark chocolate with a bit of nuttiness are the predominant flavours.

Sawdust City Gate Way Golden Ale
This Gravenhurst, Ont. brewery makes a lot of creatively named and flavoured beers, but this Kolsch-style lagered ale is the entry point for less adventurous drinkers. It's an easy-drinking, pale gold brew made with pilsner and wheat malt and spalter and magnum hops. It's both reasonably crisp and slightly sweet and is a sessional five-per-cent alcohol.

Sawdust City Red Rocket Stout
Red Rocket coffee beans, vanilla beans and cayenne pepper are added to Sawdust City's Skinny Dipping Stout to create this black product. The coffee and cayenne are highly evident in the bouquet and flavour, but neither overpower and gives this stout a surprisingly well-balanced taste.

Niagara College Brewmaster Wheat
This is the favourite beer I've tasted from the college. This unfiltered, 4.6-per-cent alcohol, wheat-based ale is light gold and features banana and cloves in the bouquet. There's a hint of banana in the flavour and it has quite a pleasant finish.

Railway City Black Coal Stout
The St. Thomas, Ont. brewery has produced a six-per-cent alcohol stout that has a 43 IBU rating on the bitterness scale. It's black and has a coffee aroma, while coffee, dark chocolate, smoke and oatmeal are the prime components of the flavour profile. It's okay, but nothing exceptional.

Ciders, Wines, Liquors and Cocktails

When I'd exhausted the new beers that I hadn't tried before, I moved on to this mix of other beverages:

Pommies Dry Cider
Despite the name, this five-per-cent alcohol cider made in Caledon with Ontario apples isn't excessively dry. The name is there more to differentiate it from sweeter ciders. It has a mild apple aroma and is bright, refreshing and reasonably crisp. It's gluten-free and not made from concentrate.

White Owl Whisky
It's a secret how this 40-per-cent alcohol spirit is distilled and filtered to make it clear. It looked just like vodka when it was poured over ice. It originated with a grain spirit that was aged for years in charred oak barrels, but that's all I can tell you about the process. The taste isn't as distinctive as with most Canadian whiskies, so this one is definitely intended more for cocktail use than for straight-up sipping by brown liquor aficionados.

Salvador's Original Margarita and Salvador's Mojito
I liked the Mojito better, but could drink both of these open and pour cocktails during those times when I'm too lazy to make my own -- which in the case of the Mojito is always since I don't keep fresh mint around the house.

Canyon Creek Pumpkin Martini
This isn't a martini at all, but you'll like it if you like pumpkin pie. It's made with Captain Morgan’s spiced and dark rums, cream, pumpkin and maple vanilla syrups, and is garnished with ground nutmeg and a cinnamon stick.

College Street Bar Whiskey Sour
It's more sweet than sour, but nice nonetheless.

Real Sports Pimm's Garden
You can't go wrong with Pimm's No. 1 Cup, lemonade and fresh fruit.

Ogier Cotes du Ventoux Rose
I wasn't particularly fond of this extra dry, 13.3-per-cent alcohol, 2012 French rose from Caves Des Papes.

Mionetto Mo Prosecco
This light, fruity and slightly dry Italian sparkling wine had a clean finish and 11 per-cent alcohol.

Deinhard Dry Riesling
This German Riesling was a little sweeter than I would have liked, but was still okay with a hint of green apple and citrus. It was reasonably light and had a 12.4-per-cent alcohol content.

Bird Label Riesling
This off-dry and mildly fruity wine from Pfalz, Germany's Lingenfelder Estate had elements of lime and apple and a lower alcohol content of 10.5 per-cent.

Mosel Gold Riesling
This pale straw-coloured wine from Mosel, Germany's H. Schmitt Soehne is even lighter in alcohol content with 9.5 per cent and is reasonably dry with flavours of apple, peach and pear.

Beringer California Collection White Zinfandel
This 2010 vintage rose is made for casual drinking and carries a 9.5-per-cent alcohol content. It's light, with a fruity aroma and flavour.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Playlist: The Very Best of Big Star

Big Star is one of those bands that never achieved the success it should have but has acquired an aura in succeeding years that has it almost breaking through the boundaries of the cult status its had since former Box Tops singer Alex Chilton, guitarist/singer Chris Bell, drummer Jody Stephens and bassist Andy Hummel came together in 1971.

The Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me documentary that came out earlier this year received praise and brought the Memphis, Tenn.-formed group to the attention of music fans who may have read that it influenced R.E.M. and The Replacements but had never heard the three albums recorded from 1971 to 1974 that brilliantly melded melody and crunch and embodied what became known as power pop. Playlist: The Very Best of Big Star, which comes out on Nov. 26 through Columbia/Legacy, is meant for those folks.

This 14-track compilation includes one song from the #1 Record debut, two from the Radio City follow-up and two from Third/Sister Lovers, which wasn't issued until four years after it was recorded. It also includes a rehearsal take of Radio City's luscious "September Gurls" that was previously released on the 1999 official bootleg, Nobody Can Dance.

Bell and Hummel left the group in the midst of Big Star's initial three-year run, and Bell was killed in a 1978 car accident. But interest in Big Star inexplicably increased long after its dissolution, and Chilton and Stephens reformed the group with Posies members Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow for an April 25, 1993 show at the University of Missouri that was recorded and released that September.

Half of Playlist: The Very Best of Big Star comes from that concert album, including some of the group's most memorable songs: "Don't Lie To Me," "The Ballad of El Goodo," "Back of a Car," "Thank You Friends" and "In the Street," which many will recognize as the theme for That '70s Show. It also features a rendition f the Bell solo cut, "I Am The Cosmos."

The album concludes with "A Whole New Thing," which is probably the best song from 2005's In Space album that was recorded by the new lineup which had continued to perform sporadically.

I was supposed to see one of those shows at the South by Southwest Music Festival (SXSW) in Austin, Texas in 2010, but Chilton passed away from a heart attack on March 17 -- three days before the concert was supposed to take place. It instead turned into a moving tribute to Chilton featuring a number of artists touched and influenced by him, including: Hummel, Curt Kirkwood (Meat Puppets), Chris Stamey (The dB's), M.Ward, Mike Mills (R.E.M.), John Doe (X), Sondre Lerche, Chuck Prophet, Evan Dando (Lemonheads), Amy Speace, Susan Cowsill and The Watson Twins.

I attended another Big Star tribute at SXSW in 2012 featuring Stephens, Stringfellow, Auer and guests including Eric Earley (Blitzen Trapper), Peter Buck (R.E.M.), Doe, Cotton Mather and Star & Micey. Big Star's shadow still obviously looms large with many musicians.

You're not likely going to please everyone when assembling a best-of compilation -- especially with a group like Big Star where you can't just cherry-pick its highest charting singles since it didn't have any hits. So while I think that "When My Baby's Beside Me," "Way Out West," "Jesus Christ," "You Get What You Deserve" and "Thirteen" could have easily been included and kept Playlist: The Very Best of Big Star to one compact disc, I shouldn't quibble.

If this album introduces even a few people to Big Star and prompts them to delve into the band's catalogue and seek out other standout power pop proponents, then it's both a worthwhile and praise-worthy exercise.

Monday, November 11, 2013

This Ain't No Mouse Music!

Alan Lomax is probably the best known American ethnomusicologist and producer because of the thousands of recordings he made and collected over his life before he passed away at age 87 in 2002.

A new documentary, This Ain't No Mouse Music!, shines the spotlight on a gentleman with a similar mission -- but one who's still at it at 82. Chris Strachwitz left Germany for the United States with his family in 1947 and instantly fell in love with American music. He founded Arhoolie Records 13 years later and This Ain't No Mouse Music! (the last two words forming a term he coined to describe what he dislikes) tells the story of the man, the label and a wide range of music with roots in the U.S. and Mexico.

"My stuff isn't produced," Strachwitz says early in the film. "I just catch it as it is."

That was the case with the first artist he recorded, Texas sharecropper and  largely unheralded blues artist Mance Lipscomb, and continues in a similar fashion to this day. Strachwitz helped a number of aging blues artists gain exposure at folk festivals in the U.S. and Europe in the '60s and '70s, which helped raise Arhoolie's profile -- though it still remains a small operation that also spun off the Down Home Records store in El Cerrito, Calif.

That expansion was largely paid for with the publishing money Strachwitz received from making the first recording of Country Joe and The Fish's "Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die Rag" -- which went on to become an anti-establishment anthem after it was performed at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair and played a prominent role in the film and album that documented it.

Arhoolie's catalogue has grown to include klezmer, Cajun, Creole, zydeco, conjunto, nortena, New Orleans jazz, bluegrass and Appalachian music, and Strachwitz has often put pioneering artists from these genres together with more current ones to record.

The biggest names interviewed for the film who've either recorded for Arhoolie or hold it in high esteem are Richard Thompson, Ry Cooder, Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal, Michael Doucet and Flaco Jimenez, who all discuss the influence that the label and its music has had on them.

This Ain't No Mouse Music! will introduce most people to artists, songs and perhaps entire musical styles that they weren't familiar with before, and will also show them just how motivating music can be in people's lives. Anyone with an interest in the roots of American music should track it down and watch it.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Flamin' Groovies are rock and roll

Fans of power pop, garage rock, blues and punk have all expressed admiration for Flamin' Groovies and the group's contributions to rock and roll over the years, and its performance at Lee's Palace on Wednesday night reflected all of those genres.

The Groovies formed in San Francisco in 1965 and have gone through both personnel changes and long periods of inactivity, but three-quarters of what's generally considered the classic lineup reformed earlier this year and gave many of us who thought we'd never see the band the chance to see our hopes become a reality.

Lead guitarist Cyril Jordan, singer/guitarist Chris Wilson and bassist George Alexander convened with young drummer Victor Penalosa and wowed my friend Craig Laskey when he saw them in San Francisco in May, and he got me pumped for this week's performance. I've been a fan since the late '70s, so that was hardly necessary, but it was appreciated -- especially since he was the guy who brought the quartet to Toronto.

The Groovies have been noted for their astute choice of covers almost as much as they have been for their original songs over the years, and Wednesday's set featured a balance of both.

The band opened with a cover of The Rolling Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and it was apparent right away that these guys are musicians through and through. But Wilson's voice was definitely off and sometimes sounded hoarse. It soon became apparent that more than the seemingly well-refreshed Wilson's voice wasn't quite right. He talked a lot of nonsense in between songs, made a request to Toronto mayor "Bob" Ford for "a huff," frequently held proceedings up to tune his guitar and had to be told by Jordan what was happening next before almost every song. 

It was much more professional in San Fran, Laskey assured me. But this raggedness and the possibility that the show could fall apart at any point gave it the spirit of punk rock that many in the crowd grew up on. That crowd included a lot of local musicians, including: guitarists Travis Good, Fred Robinson, Gord Cumming, Jeff MacNeil and Rob Sweeney; drummers Teddy Fury, Cleave Anderson and Sean Dignan; and singer/songwriter Kate Boothman.

Jordan held things together with his guiding hand and the rhythm section helped too, but the band's sound man unfortunately lost some of the bassist and drummer's contributions via a sometimes muddy mix that was loud but not as well-defined as it could have been, and an occasional squeal and crackle also emanated from the amplifiers.

Wilson's voice issues hampered some harmonies, but Jordan's jangly guitar work showed that he's a master of his craft on a set highlighted by covers of Freddy Cannon's "Tallahassee Lassie," The Byrds' "I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better," NRBQ's "I Want You Bad," Tampa Red/Chuck Berry's "Don't You Lie To Me" and the Stones' "Paint It Black," as well as originals "Yeah My Baby," "You Tore Me Down," "Please Please Girl," "Between The Lines" and "Slow Death."

The Groovies' 70-minute set ended with a song that Jordan introduced by saying, "If you don't know what it is, you don't belong here." We all knew what it was going to be. The title track of the group's 1976 Dave Edmunds-produced album has been covered by so many people and is such a great song that you'd think it was a huge hit, but it inexplicably wasn't. I'm talking "Shake Some Action."

The quartet left the stage, but it was folly to think that it wouldn't return without playing at least one more song. I was really hoping that five people would take the stage to perform it, however. I'd seen Teenage Head co-founder Gord Lewis at the back of the club earlier in the night and, since his band was named after a Groovies song and album, I thought it would be fitting if he was at least acknowledged if not invited to perform the last number of the night. It wasn't to be, but I'll never quibble with hearing the guys who wrote "Teenage Head" perform it.

This wasn't a pristine show by any means, but it was a rock-and-roll event that I'm glad I was part of. 

I found out earlier this evening that my friend Keats passed away today. I know that he would have liked this set too, and I was thinking about him as I wrote this. He'll be missed.

Thanks to Matzoh Ball for sharing his videos from Wednesday night. He's moving to Austin, Texas soon and will also be missed, but I know that I'll be seeing him again.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Barrence Whitfield and the Savages - Dig Thy Savage Soul

When the term R&B comes up these days, it's too often associated with syrupy, smooth ballads. When I think of R&B, it's much more in terms of what Barrence Whitfield and The Savages are kicking out on their Bloodshot Records debut, Dig Thy Savage Soul.

This is primal, stompin' and soulful rock-and-roll, the kind that was kicking asses in the '60s and -- on this album -- still is.

From opener "The Corner Man" to the wailing saxophone that drives a cover of Jerry McCain's "Turn Your Damper Down" 11 songs later, Dig Thy Savage Soul totally exemplifies its title.

The band broke out of Boston's garage rock scene in the mid-'80s and gained cult favourite status through its records and intense performances that earned it tour slots with the likes of Bo Diddley, Tina Turner, Robert Cray, Solomon Burke and George Thorogood before it went on a lengthy hiatus. The group reformed in 2011 with new drummer Andy Joy and saxophonist Tom Quartulli joining Whitfield and original guitarist Peter Greenberg (The Lyres, DMZ) and bassist Phil Lenker (The Lyres), and it seems that nothing was lost during that interim.

Whitfield's powerful voice growls and howls throughout the album, and it has to because a lesser vocalist would be drowned by the powerful musical forces driving almost to the point of recklessness behind him through a mix of original tunes and rather obscure covers. Whitfield is just a couple of years away from 60, but the passion and energy heard here is that of a man less than half that age.

Performances are supposed to be sweaty, high-octane affairs, and I'm hoping I can be part of one sooner rather than later since Dig Thy Savage Soul is such a knockout.