Sky Bucket Records
At times, its easy to imagine that the new Dexateens album, Singlewide, is what Gram Parsons music might have sounded like if hed been into flannel shirts rather than tailored Nudie suits. But make no mistake about it: the Dexateens do not dwell in the Gilded Palace of Sin. Oh, no. At least on the outside, what were talking about here is a grey-primered Camaro in the driveway with its hood up in the rain, the screen ripped out of the front door of the trailer, and a funky-smelling sofa with burns on the arms and empties between the cushions. But when you dig a little deeper, you find theres a great collection of British Invasion albums neatly tucked away in the fake-wood cabinet underneath the stereo and by the looks of the bookshelf, somebodys reading Steinbeck and Kerouac.
And thats the deal: dont let these guys fool you. While lyrics like
My daddys name is Elton and my mommas name is Jean
My cars a Chevy Nova and my womans 17
She moved into my place cause her parents intervened
rank right up there with the Drive-By Truckers most okay-so-what-if-were-all-effed-up-were-from-the-South-eff-you moments, when the Dexateens come up with a line like
I live in the space created by your compromise
you realize that these are deeper waters than what they might seem. The Dexateens are as real and down home as they claim to be, but they owe no apologies for being able to write beyond the world they know, either.
And then theres the music itself. Although the Dexateens are still a guitar band, theyve matured to the point of realizing what Keith Richards discovered all those years ago: a foundation of acoustic guitar can provide great footing for some killer rock n roll. Their sound on Singlewide features a neat low-fi base of acoustic rhythm work and when the Les Pauls and Teles kick in, you know it. Principal songwriters/vocalists/guitarists John Smith and Elliott McPherson lead us through moments that range from the aforementioned British Invasion (hey – listen to the cascading guitar break on Down Low or the Hermans-Hermits-after-a-few-beers harmonies of Hang On and tell me what you think) to Harvest-era Neil Young (New Boy) to a happier and healthier Uncle Tupelo (Grandaddys Mouth).
Sonically, it sounds like producer Mark Nevers set Smith, McPherson, Matt Patton (bass), Lee Bains (guitar/vocals), and drummer Brian Gosdin up in a circle and let them go at it at times. Theres nothing glossy about Singlewide, but thats what makes it even better.
The Dexateens have made the album of their career. If you missed buying Wilcos A.M. when it first came out or better yet, the Replacements Let It Be – you have found redemption in Singlewide.
Oh, and slam the hood shut on that Camaro on your way out of the driveway, willya?