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Album Review

Ruby Dee & the Snakehandlers play rockabilly, a genre it's hard to take seriously in the 21st century, but the band strikes the perfect balance between campy humor, reverent respect, and the kind of first-class musicianship that's necessary to pull off the style. Ruby Dee Philippa grew up in northern California, Texas, and Alaska, and her larger than life personality comes across in every note she sings. Guitarist Jorge Harada has the high hair and monster chops to spare, but he usually keeps himself reigned in to deliver short, sharp solos that complement Dee's barely restrained vocals. The rhythm section — Sean Hudson bass and Kipp Crawford on drums — keeps the beats driving and basic. Even ballads like "Comes a Time" sound dangerous. It's a smoky, twang-heavy torch song with a blue "Patsy Cline" vibe, and Dee's understated vocal makes it a real heartbreaker. But it's on the rockers that this gang really shines. Dee's vocals are always on the brink of hysteria, but she maintains the restraint that makes a great country singer. "Shameful Breaker" rides a rolling backbeat and Dee delivers the lyrics with a growl that makes the small hairs on your neck stand up. "Since You Went Away" is a celebration of the newfound freedom one feels at the end of a bad relationship. Dee kicks up her heels while Harada and the band lay down an exuberant groove. "Don't Need a Man" is a driving country blues-rock tune with a hiccough laden lead vocal, clanging lead guitar, and pile driver rhythm that drives home its message of female emancipation. "Gunslinger (Return of Nobody)" is a spooky, Link Wray like instrumental that lets Harada show off his chops, but it remains finely balanced between reverb-drenched excess and finely honed single-note runs. The one cover, Hank Sr.'s "Settin' the Woods on Fire," gets played in the manner of Johnny Cash with a perfect, chuggin' Luther Perkins rhythm guitar figure. The band is based in Seattle, but they've got that timeless rockabilly sound nailed down; every track delivers the kind of treacherous energy their name implies. ~ j. poet, Rovi

Miles from Home, Ruby Dee & The Snakehandlers
View in iTunes
  • $9.99
  • Genres: Rock, Music, Alternative
  • Released: Mar 13, 2012

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