Give Me Some Skin

Mike Dillon

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Mike Dillon

Mike Dillon

While critics and “serious” music fans endlessly praise and muse over the likes of Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart, few pause to savor (and salute) the musicians with a pulse carrying the torch for groovy outsider art-rock-jazz-prog-whatever music. To wit, how master percussionist, persuasive blue-eyed MC, and all around creative dynamo Mike Dillon isn’t universally loved and applauded amongst modern music’s intelligentsia. So be it, the kids who read liner notes, gobble acid, and spend long hours inside Mahavishnu Orchestra, The Beastie Boys, Art Ensemble of Chicago and Minutemen albums are likely already switched onto Dillon and his wayward but ever evolving sounds, be it his pioneering work with Critters Buggin, his role as wicked foil for Les Claypool for many years, guest turns with Polyphonic Spree and Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, a long term gig as Ani DiFranco’s rhythm ace, or any number of countless tangents with saxophonic devil Skerik.

Dillon is restless but dedicated, a digger for treasures in crevices others wimp out on exploring, emerging with a fresh silver grill he’s fashioned with his own mallets and sharp incisors. For as outré as his work can be, he’s a groove machine, teasing out captivating drum parts and ear-snagging vibe licks that make one wriggle like a worm on a hook, the body charged by his zap and slither, taken places by this ridiculously skilled percussionist that one can’t predict but welcome once the trip has gotten underway. Mike D is an imposing figure, carved out of wood like a true Fight Club champion, stage diving (he’s done so a couple times on DI’s Editor/Publisher Dennis Cook) with the sincere lustiness of a young punk and yet handling his various instruments as only a truly practiced and naturally gifted player can. Contradictions abound in Dillon, but almost always in appealing ways, where tradition dances with innovation as just plain freaky energies crackle and hiss within the inner workings. Dillon is the musical embodiment of Mark Twain’s aphorism, “Life is short, break the rules. Forgive quickly. Kiss slowly. Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably. And never regret anything that makes you smile.”

Mike Dillon Band Studio Debut

Mike Dillon Band Studio Debut

His focus for the past year or so is the simply named Mike Dillon Band, where sparks and fur fly as this attuned, instinctive, very young aggregate locks minds and limbs with Dillon. As last year’s killer shows revealed – including two highlight sets from the 2012 High Sierra Music Festival, where the band returns again this year – all of Dillon’s sonic exploration over the years haven’t been as random as one might think given the cool mastication of many flavors he achieves with Carly Meyers (trombone, Moog Taurus pedals, vocals), Cliff Hines (guitar, bass) and Adam Gertner (drums). The depth of this combo continues to thicken as continued touring reveals greater interconnectivity as well as greater openness to experiment individually in this context.

Urn (released September 2012 by the reliably excellent Royal Potato Family), the studio debut of this lineup, is some of the craftiest, most swinging compositions yet from Dillon, a crucial aspect of his talents that’s often overlooked because of his he-man musicianship and undeniable stage presence. While Urn contains some of Dillon’s trademark scatological rhymin’ – he shouts “motherfucker!” a dozen times on the Ween-wishes-they-wrote-it “Leather On” – there are also moments of unvarnished beauty and luminous strangeness in some of the most well conceived pieces he’s ever penned (as well as seen successfully executed by his collaborators). “River Is Burning” is both old timey and extraterrestrial, while “Cedar” is a Middle Eastern tinged cousin to Buck 65 with inspired sax work from guest Mike Southerland, who mixes up Klezmer and Ayler in a most delightful way on this track. Opener “DVS” struts in like Mr. Natural after a good limbering up, stride wide and riding a honking buzz. The impulsive zaniness of Reefer Madness informs the swoop and slide of “Sunny Is Drunk,” and every other cut is an evocative, thought provoking bit o’ fun from one of the most promising, switched-on outfits Dillon’s ever been involved in – and that’s saying something given the man’s pedigree. The Mike Dillon Band is on tour right the fuck now, so check out their itinerary here and get to a show so they can sweat on you and make you gyrate happily!

Here’s what the electric vibraphone, tabla, etc. pro had to say to the Impound’s percussionist survey.

read on for Mike D’s answers

Baby, You're A Star!

new artists to notice

Willie Nile

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Willie Nile isn’t a new artist. In fact, he’s a nearly 40 year veteran with a rich catalog who’s worked the folk joints of Bleecher Street, the clubs and theatres of Europe, and every sort of U.S. venue that would have him over the years. But the clarity, captivating force, and saving-up-the-best-damn-songs-from-a-lifetime quality of his eighth studio effort, American Ride (released June 25), smacks of a particularly auspicious debut filled with roughhewn wisdom, rock ‘n’ roll grit, and no small amount of faith stimulus. American Ride is pure inspirational force, kindred spirit to Bruce Springsteen and Alejandro Escovedo, sharing some of these established greats’ mixture of boldness and intimacy but bettering their over-praised recent albums by being more street level, immediate, and filled with insightful humor as well as abundant heart. More than any of his American peers, the latest from this enduring New York City powerhouse carries on the spirit of Joe Strummer through tales simultaneously tough and tender, the view from the gutter articulated in ways that makes one want to reach out a hand, or at least open up a bit to the shared human condition.

Beginning with a count-off followed by a doo-wop derived chant, American Ride instantly plants one in front of a sweaty, leave it all on the stage band hell-bent on knocking our socks off, roaring, “This is our time! This is our place! This is our moment in the human race!” And by gum, one believes him as Nile pulls us into the present, peeling away the noise to get at what really makes us feel alive, what makes us hurt, what makes us ache and long for better, more, whatever.

Willie Nile by Cristina Arrigoni

Willie Nile by Cristina Arrigoni

God is here, too, but a bare-knuckled scrapper on the side of empty-pocketed outsiders just longing to be free of fear and basic want. “God Laughs” and “Holy War” are simply two of the finest glosses on the Spirit in the Sky to come along in a decade, just the laughter tinged tools we need in this hyper-partisan time of uber-religiosity. It’s fitting this album was helped into the world with a campaign, the People’s Record in a metaphorical sense that jives well with the universalist vibe here, a bushel of hard won hope to provide sustenance for anyone who needs it.

The surging dreamer’s energy that infuses many tracks is balanced by short, sharp bursts of humor and dark understanding, a crucial strand on American Ride perhaps seen most clearly on a perfect, inspired cover of Jim Carroll’s “People Who Died,” which also cements Nile’s bona fides as a dyed-in-the-wool New York musician, as much a part of that city’s storied soundtrack as The Ramones, Patti Smith, and Dion. From the Ellis Island touched “The Crossing” to jaunty, only in the City That Never Sleeps “Sunrise In New York City” to the deftly detailed “Life On Bleecker Street,” Nile nails down big chunks of NYC’s character in succinctly carved verses.

American Ride is most assuredly a career high point – and a lock for DI’s Favorite Albums of 2013 – but even more exciting is the sense that Willie Nile and his crack band are just getting rolling, a band of brothers dedicated to bringing us through the storms of the early 21st century led by a survivor who hasn’t succumb to cynicism despite a long career that’s seen half-talents and flavors of the month snatch the glory and gold that should go to an American rock treasure like Nile. His able pen here and battered-but-unbowed performances make it clear that he’s far from broken, and he’s not ready to let the rest of us falter either. Amen, brother, amen!

Pick up the album HERE!

Dirty 7

Daria Johnson

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Daria Johnson

Daria Johnson

If you met Daria Johnson in the audience at a show you’d encounter a thousand watt smile, a bold, delightful laugh, and a warm demeanor that don’t in any way suggest the ferocious badass that emerges when this powerful, attention grabbing drummer jumps behind a kit. She often sports a wonderful expression when she’s working the sticks that’s equal measures steely determination and joy at bashing on things – a primal look and feel that grabs ya and doesn’t let go.

Johnson hits hard in the spirit of Keith Moon and The Black Crowes’ Steve Gorman, mingling strong groove sensibilities with gutbucket force. The Impound thinks she’s positively beautiful when she’s locked onto just the right beat and then drives it home. We’ve seen her swing power pop style with the Sean Leahy Trio, just murder Prince tunes (including taking the mic) with Guitarmageddon, and a variety of other settings that suggest there’s all kinds of powerful depths to this charming musician. One thing we know for sure, when DI sees Daria settle in behind the drums we know our rhythm needs will be well attended to.

Here’s what Daria had to say for the Impound’s bawdiest questionnaire.

bed bugs bite!

Mix Tape

Sunday Brunch IX

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Open up the windows and let the cool air in. Press play, softly at first and then inching up the volume bit by bit as the music takes you and sets your feet to shuffling. It’s gonna be a beautiful weekend despite all the flotsam and jetsam beating against our hulls. The water is wide but we will cross over. Believe that.

Track listing below. If you experience playback problems pop over to the mix page and it should play fine.

Sunday Brunch IX from dirtyimpound on 8tracks Radio.

You can listen to 8tracks mixes on your iPhone (pick up the app here) and Android (pick up the app here).

track listing

Keyed Up

Asher Fulero

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Asher Fulero by Zipporah Lomax

Asher Fulero by Zipporah Lomax

Keyboardist don’t come more versatile or off-handedly fearless than Asher Fulero, an astute student of keyboard history in the recorded musical era that never allows his learned POV to get in the way of playing with feeling and immediacy. A fixture of the West Coast jazz, jam and rock scenes for many years, Fulero, still a young player, has already established himself as one of Matt Butler’s go-to guys for Everyone Orchestra – always a sign of a high quality, open-minded musician – as well as an explorer of electronic music’s new frontiers with Halo Refuser and Surrounded By Ninjas. But these projects only hint at his depths, which folks may sometimes miss because of his general good nature and unassuming approach to his craft. Rather than wave his arms to draw attention to his contributions, Fulero just wades into myriad situations with a smile and gets down to business, a superb collaborator and gracious co-conspirator with oodles of solo stomping magic tucked up his sleeve.

However, Fulero’s ability to blend in and accentuate the positives in his band mates sometimes means that his work doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Thankfully his newest offering, Liminal Rites pick it up (released June 4 and available here), is a solo piano outing that finds Fulero soaring into breathy, gorgeous spaces that showcase all the creativity, natural talent and gig-honed skill living in his hands. While many high-end players have distinctive ticks, Fulero really doesn’t except for an abiding emotional well that he pours into his compositions and performances, and the emotional undertow on this solo album is powerful, a gravity that pulls at the heart and makes eyes well up at times.


On Liminal Rites there is love and dreaming, spirit and struggle, peace and discord, and all together it plays out like an affair without words – wordless because none are needed. Who is the affair with? Could be someone mortal – what else drives songwriters to such passion? – but Liminal Rites also comes across as a conversation with the universe and perhaps God, a descendent of McCoy Tyner’s 60s musings with Coltrane filtered through the genre-cracking atmospherics of George Winston and the limber, lean-in-close ivory dancing of John Hicks and Don Pullen.

It’s the kind of record one puts on when they need to muse and stretch their mind beyond the friction and bustle of the day, an album for sunrises and moon watching, perhaps best enjoyed alone or holding hands with someone dear who’s comfortable listening and absorbing without needing to intrude with language and digressions. It is incredibly beautiful and as naked a presentation of Fulero’s many gifts as a musician and composer as anything in his ever-expanding catalog. For the Impound’s tastes, we think it’s the best album he’s ever made – a revelation of just how bloody good this guy is at what he does.

Here’s what Asher had to the Impound’s keyboardist inquiry.

read on for Asher’s answers

In Your Eye

you gotta see this

Worthy Causes

The New Up & Animal Party

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At Dirty Impound we strive to sniff out the best, most real, honest rock ‘n’ roll we can find, but most of the time we’re spotlighting this material after it’s already available for purchase, download, live consumption, etc. Given the challenges facing independent artists in the modern era, DI will now periodically share what we consider worthy causes during their gestation period. When our faith is high that the music coming down the pipeline is high quality, we’re gonna encourage our readers to chip in towards quality projects. We feel like the Impound is a bit of a cause itself (read our mission statement), and we’re glad to throw our support behind musicians with real heart, talent and drive, and hope y’all feel the same.

That said, our first pair of worthy causes comes from San Francisco with two of the finest modern rock outfits we’ve laid ears on in the past 10 years. The New Up is a sleek beast, grit and groove in one, where things snarl even as they sashay seductively. Sharing some sonic kinship with folks like Tricky, Gang of Four, Patti Smith Group and contemporaries The Features and CSS, this quintet harnesses modern travails to enduring, underlying truths to forge music that’s relevant, sexy and charged with electricity. Animal Party stems from the line that brought us Cheap Trick and the great power pop tradition for music with killer hooks, strong melodies, tight musicianship and a lead singer with hella enticing pipes. We’ve heard Animal Party’s debut – produced by the reliably excellent Jeremy Black (Tea Leaf Green, Apollo Sunshine, Sean Leahy Trio) and can assure you it’s a hopping collection filled with rave ups and quality love songs you want to hear but don’t know it yet. All of the new material The New Up has previewed live suggests these folks are ready to move onto the proverbial next level in both thickening and streamlining their already considerable charms. Take a gander at their fund raising pitches and consider getting involved. The only way rock gets better these days is if listeners get involved in helping the good stuff find its way into world.

Support The New Up’s project here! And keep up with the band’s musical revolution on their official blog.

Support Animal Party’s project here!

Dirty Impound Questionnaire

The Features

1 Reply

The Features

The Features

The fourth album from Tennessee’s The Features culminates their evolution into a 21st century answer to The Cars – vibrantly modern rock with old school hooks and a prickly, incisive emotional atmosphere, i.e. just the score for moving in stereo with your best friend’s girlfriend. While predecessors Wilderness (2011) and Some Kind of Salvation (2006) are growers that benefit from time and multiple spins, but The Features (released May 14 on Serpents and Snakes) makes the kind of leap INXS took between The Swing and Listen Like Thieves, where all the tumblers fall into alignment and something powerful, an energy that can’t be manufactured, reaches out from within the music – the sound of a band finding their core identity and sharing it with the world.

The whole album crackles with nervous energy, lead singer-guitarist Matt Pelham using a measured tone that explodes into flamethrower intensity at all the right moments. Song after song sticks, music that makes one want to hotwire a Tesla and tool around visiting old flames and broken friendships as the streetlamps shimmer off the silver hood and the night air grows cool and pleasant. Each constituent part – Pelham’s barbed lyrics, spiky guitar and heavy petting voice, the bubbling, analog friendly keys of Mark Bond, the Chic-esque bass slink of Roger Dabbs, and the secret weapon, pay-no-attention-to-me compact grace of drummer Rollum Haas – blend so well, each distinct and complimentary at the same time. One is reminded of the electrifying early work of Roxy Music and 10cc at times – art rock that actually rocks – and that ain’t nothing but positive. As a mission statement, which eponymous albums tend to be, The Features serves notice that one of the strongest bands of the 2000s is firing on all cylinders and has places to go.

We shot DI’s signature questionnaire to the band and here’s what the drummer had to say.

read on for greater decibels