Tuesday, July 2, 2013

It's All Their Fault

CURL has been one of my favorite local (Victoria) bands since I first saw them perform about three years ago. They are funny, sharp, and lots of fun. I don't think of them as an "all girl band" or any kind of novelty act, just a band that plays great music to go dancing to.

The first thing I noticed about them is that this is a real band, not just four people playing music together. By that I mean that they really listen to each other when they perform. Nobody tries to stand out at the expense of the group dynamic. Miles Davis called it "playing attention," and this quality is captured brilliantly on their recently released debut CD, "All My Fault." It has hardly been out of my car stereo since I first got my hands on a copy.

Produced Wynn Gogol did a fine job recording and mixing this album. Just listen to the way bassist Susan Johnson and drummer Christa Rossner lock together in the groove and you'll know what I mean. Johnson's bass tone and perfect intonation are outstanding, and Rossner goes straight to the heart of the beat every time. Dee Cooper's keyboard playing and her arrangements bring out the best in her band mates. Lead vocalist Helen Davies has the pipes to sing anything from Bessie Smith to Axl Rose, but she makes her powerful voice serve the song, not the singer's ego. And she plays guitar like a member of a band, not like someone trying to drown a band out.

In other words, these musicians have got each other's back, and you can't help but feel it.

I would put some of these tracks in heavy rotation if I were a radio deejay. Keyboard player Dee Cooper's "What's His Name" is a song I would kill to have written, and I suspect lots of other songwriters will feel the same way about it. The Davies original "Heavy Stuff" is top-notch writing; the song wouldn't be out of place on a Janiva Magness or a Shemekia Copeland album. The title track (written by the whole band) demonstrates conclusively that wit is one of the sexiest human qualities. (In my book, well-placed wit trumps pole dancing, provocative poses, and flouncing around the stage half-naked, every time.)

But as good as Curl's own songs are, the centerpiece of the album is their astonishingly original take on "St. James Infirmary." There's a reason they call these old songs "standards," because there's a lot to live up to when you perform them. Not to worry: Curl's version can stand beside anyone's. I suspect Louis Armstrong would have loved this track, and I'll be amazed if it doesn't get a ton of air play.

For the time being, as far as I know, you'll have to catch CURL live to get your hands on a copy. Check out their website for gig dates and much more. 

In the meantime, take a look-see.