My sincerest apologies to Drew. I told him I would have this by last Friday when Dastardly was playing their free show at Reggies. That concert served as a fundraiser to send some bands down to SxSw. Dastardly will be there, we will be there-it’s a perfect fit. Also, May You Never is now available on iTunes, so the timing didn’t work out too bad.
Sometime in the last twenty years or so country music took a gigantic leap backward. Certainly Shania Twain can’t be held responsible for all of it, but she’s probably the most notable culprit. After years of being a respectable musical genre, the fatcats working the books at country music record companies decided it would be better if they were more mainstream and had crossover appeal. One “Any Man of Mine” later and the genre took off like a rocket.
The guys and gals that made country music great-Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Connie Smith, Dale Evans-they couldn’t be too pleased with the direction the form has taken.
But there is hope, Chicago. Dastardly has put out an EP that is wholly new and original, while paying solemn tribute to the forbearers of the genre. Maybe they don’t even consider this country music. Perhaps they just call it indie because that’s the hip thing to do. But let me tell all you beautiful people, it’s country music, and it’s fucking brilliant.
Now, there are a lot of bands who have sort of kicked off this true country music revival over the past few years. Mumford & Sons is the most popular right now (ESPN was using “Little Lion Man” in a commercial, so I know they’re popular. I also realized The Zutons were the biggest band in the world when Fox Sports used the song “Pressure Point” during a NFC Conference Championship commercial). The Avett Brothers, Old Crow Medicine Show, even one of my favorites The Felice Brothers have been bringing it back slowly and surely. Bluegrass music, especially, has seen a huge rise in popularity, mainly due to a lot of British bands and legendary American comedians (just one, actually-STEVE MARTIN!).
But there’s something about Dastardly’s take that makes them better than those bands for me. It’s just a brutally honest record that they’ve put out. The musicianship is amazing. I don’t know where they wrote these songs, but in my mind they were in a cabin nestled away in the Smoky Mountains, sitting on the porch, probably on rocking chairs-no shoes on of course.
I totally get why Dastardly and Chaperone dig each other’s music. They both have their own way of doing things, but there is an underlying feeling of Appalachia behind almost every song. The two bands have played on the same bill multiple times, and I’ve only been luck enough to catch it once. If you see their names next to one another on whatever website you use to get your concert info, do yourself a favor and check it out.
Getting back to May You Never…It’s seven tracks long (not nearly long enough), and each song is great in it’s own way. My favorite of the EP is the closer, “Traffic.” It’s the only track that doesn’t sound terribly Appalachian. It actually sounds like it could have been written in southern Texas after a long trip to Tijuana. It’s a reflective song that doesn’t paint the main character in such a great light:
Well I was born in traffic
I’m attracted to slow moving obstacles
Empty bottles and prophalactics
But am I attractive
Should I breathe in the chemicals
Man I just hope I don’t fuck it up this time
The song provides the perfect end for a record that is both funny and self-aware while remaining musically engaging. They lyrics are great, the harmonies between lead singer Gabe Liebowitz and Sarah Morgan are fantastic throughout, and it leaves you feeling satisfied like you’ve just had Thanksgiving dinner.
As I stated at the top, May You Never is now available on iTunes. Do yourself a big favor and pick it up now.
Dastardly is local to Chicago. The band is comprised of: Gabe Liebowitz-Guitar and Vocals; Sarah Morgan-Accordion, Percussion, Vocals; Patrick Lyons-Guitar, Pedal Steel, Mandolin, Vocals; John Humbracht-Guitar, Banjo, Lap Steep, Dobro, Vocals; August Sheehy-Bass, Vocals; Andy Taylor-Drums