on 12 November 2013
White Denim's last album, 2011's 'D' is my favourite Lp of the last few years. It was inventive, fun, catchy, funky and kicked serious backside.
Thankfully, the boys have evolved nicely on Corsicana Lemonade, which shaves off some of the more idiosyncratic tendencies of 'D' and maintains focus as a stylish blues-jazz-funk-rock album, all played with their usual high standard of musical chops.
Ok, so they don't take many of the weird and wonderful flights of fancy they have in the past, but why repeat yourselves? They've honed their craft and are now the 21st century's answer to Little Feat. And that's high praise.
on 28 October 2013
Initially when I heard Jeff Tweedy (of Wilco) was producing White Denim's next album I was worried. His previous production credits for Mavis Staples and Low had involved simply recording their dry, live sound with very little studio trickery. White Denim's previous albums and EP's had been self produced. Left to themselves they'd become progressively more ambitious in terms of using overdubs, additional musicians and instrumentation in order to create a broader sonic scope. They'd created some very ambitious and engaging records without needing a producer. Regularly their approach in the studio contrasted greatly with their live work which for the most part does away with gimmickry and concentrates almost exclusively on their amazing, peerless musicianship. James Petralli, singer and songwriter in the band had stated in various places online that he wanted a producer involved this time out so that all four members of White Denim could concentrate exclusively on their playing and not have to worry about checking monitor levels or peak meters.
As it turns out their time with Tweedy turned out to be quite limited and he only ended up working on a couple of the new tunes. The band instead chose to finish the record with producer Jim Volentine. The resulting LP, "Corsicana Lemonade", might be one of the most fun records I've ever heard.
What's immediately apparent, even from the first few bars of "At Night in Dreams", is that the record is funky. The tight, interlocking guitar hooks are what make everything gel so magically. The classic rock twin guitar template of Southern 70's bands like The Allman Bros and Lynrd Skynrd has been cranked up 200% or so for the 21st Century. Where the influence of Zappa that had been so apparent on previous releases still remains everything's been made far more palatable as elements of Steely Dan, Thin Lizzy, Boz Scaggs, Steve Miller, Blue Oyster Cult, ZZ Top and Rush are added to the mix. That's not to say this is a nostalgia record. It sounds utterly contemporary in the same way that fellow Texan Stevie Ray Vaughn sounded fresh in the late 80's/early 90's by re-interpreting old blues standards in his very unique and entertaining way. "Corsicana Lemonade's" songs, together, form a seamless, cohesive collection. Only the last tune, "A Place to Start", takes its foot off the gas. It's a slower, more tender ( and thoughtful) song than the others. At first I thought it sounded out of place but after several weeks (the record's been available to stream online for quite a while) it's become, for me, along with "Come Back", one of the album's highlights.
In the past White Denim have used methods such as sudden time signature changes and abrupt quiet/loud dynamics to make the listener aware of what capable musicians they were, but now the remit seems to be that everyone, listener and band alike, should simply be having a good time. The song structures are as sophisticated as anything they've done before, but the riffs dominate, making these compositions sound effortless and probably less clever than they actually are. The lyrics too, belted out with great gusto by Petralli, don't go in for the "deep and meaningful". They're functional without being banal and allow Petralli to explore the full range of his soulful voice.
Compared to "D", their last "official" studio album, "Corsicana Lemonade" sounds Lo-Fi. There's plenty of fuzz bass which lends the album a "Nuggets"- era garage rock feel. Beyond some overlaid acoustic guitars (in the quiet places) "Corsicana Lemonade" appears to have very few overdubs. It's essentially a wonderful live document of the marvelous place where White Denim are currently at as a touring band (I saw them at the Latitude festival earlier this year and grinned broadly for the entire 45 minutes duration of their set).
To conclude, the production on this record is everything I feared it would be had Tweedy been more involved - but that's exactly what was needed. White Denim are smart guys, they knew what they wanted, which also goes to show how much I know. I've got some more tickets for White Denim in November. They're playing small 200-300 seat venues. The tickets didn't sell out for several days after they went on release. This goes to show that White Denim are still very much a well kept secret on these shores. I don't see how they will be in future after more people get to hear and fall in love with this utterly uplifting album.
on 24 January 2014
A friend of mine went to see WD in Brighton and remarked on facebook how good they were so I thought I'd check them out. I listened to a few snippets of Corsicana Lemonade and they piqued my interest enough to download the full album. I'm very glad I did. Having done so I've voraciously sought any other music by the band, so they're other 4 albums. This is the best entry point as the most accessible piece they've done, At Night in Dreams kicks off the proceedings with a bang of riffing and melody which is sustained brilliantly throughout. What I love about WD is their absolute ability to construct unusual yet melodic songs, the sheer intricacy and the way they meld styles. It is breath taking, more so on 'D' and 'Workout Holiday' (albeit the latter is raw) but certainly in evidence here. Normally I find guitar music a little one dimensional and tired, and moreover totally predicatable, this is not the case with this band. Buy this, then buy the rest!
Texan band White Denim have over the past decade been one of America's most startling bands. On previous albums like "Fits" and 2011s wonderful "D" they have shown enough invention to have the patent office working overtime. They draw upon American rock heritage and in their albums can be found echoes of the Mothers of Invention, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Allman Brothers combined with funk and free form jazz. They are professional shape shifters and they inhabit their own unique space. It is often said that you pin a genre on White Denim at your peril. The band have described this new album "Corsican Lemonade" as "their barbecue record". The reason for this is very clear since this is by a country mile the most accessible album they have recorded. In essence this is White Denim moving towards the centre but doing it their way. To stress a point the album is by no means devoid of the trademark skittery syncopated rhythms and odd time signatures. Rock music is never quite straightforward with this band, but the album will appeal to those already immersed in the band ethic and for those approaching for the first time a treat is in store. Take the opener "At night in dreams" full of rumbling bass and lovely melodic guitar runs that positively bubble and burn.
The title track is even better full of jazzy guitar noodling, blues riffing and sounding like Jeff Beck meets the Marshall Tucker Band. Things slow down for the lovely country soul ballad "New Blue feeling" where lead singer/songwriterJames Petralli does a sterling job. Wilco's Jeff Tweedy produced two cuts on Corsicana Lemonade both on the mellow end of the spectrum the Steely Dan sounding "Distant Relatives" and a "A Place to Start." a song that Todd Rundgren would have been proud to write. This reviewer nonetheless prefers the flowing jazzy lines of the excellent "Distant relative salute". Best of all are two relatively straightforward rockers the surging Thin Lizzy style riffing at the end of the funky "Come back" sees guitarists James Petralli and Austin Jenkins exchanging chops with jigsaw complexity. The gold medal nonetheless goes to "Cheer up/Blues Feeling" a deceptively easy track starting with that wonderful guitar interplay which was a Black Crowes speciality and finally breaking out into a wondrous restrained jam.
Upon hearing the single "Pretty Green" on pre release to this album there has been some internet traffic arguing that White Denim have "gone all Black Keys". It is true that this is to date the most commercial effort the band have pieced together, but is that a bad thing? There certainly is nothing quite as spectacularly good on this new album as the double punch of "Burnished/Back at the farm" from "D" but there are enough songs here pushing to that level and consistency throughout is rock solid. White Denim release their new album on the same day as Arcade Fire overblown misstep "Reflektor". Thus a useful tip for true connoisseurs of rock music would be to shift their gaze from Montreal to Austin and give this great band from the music town a full hearing.
This could be White Denim's UK breakthrough album and they certainly deserve a wider audience. This is a vital celebration of guitar, with deft addition of keyboards (including mellotron, hey!). If you are of a certain age you may be gratified to detect traces of great bands past like Jethro Tull and Wishbone Ash. Even in this digital, over-polished, autotuned age, there's room for contemporary rock music, you know, by people who actually play real instruments. The success of a band like White Denim is long overdue. My vinyl copy is a very fetching shade of yellow too.
on 26 July 2014
Take a large portion of early Steely Dan, particularly the guitar sound. Then add a dash of country influence, I'm thinking Allman Brothers. After just fold in some Black Keys and there you have it - White Denim. To explore the origins of this album is not to detract from it in any way. This sounds as fresh as fresh can be and like most great albums, takes 4 or 5 listens until the songs grow into hugely satisfying tunes in your head. Brilliant!!!
on 19 January 2014
Was impressed with the guitar playing but felt that using 20 notes instead of maybe 6 or 7 spoilt things a bit; clearly influences of Allmans, Little Feat, Steely Dan etc.etc. but just seemed a little clinical to me, very tight, still worth the buying!