Dr. Dog — Shame, Shame. Out 4/6, Anti- Records.
Dr. Dog is a band that I probably would have paid very little attention to, if not for Bristol Rhythm & Roots and my friend Hank. I’d snagged their last two albums prior to Bristol, because they were playing a set there, and enjoyed them, but it was Hank raving about them the weekend before Bristol, after a Holy Ghost set, that made me put them on and really pay attention to them before we went to Bristol. I trust a lot of people’s musical opinions, and that goes double for actual musicians, in most cases, and Hank was not wrong. Of course, we ended up skipping their set at Bristol in favor of going back to the hotel because we’re old people, but Dr. Dog was on my radar — I was going to make sure I saw them at some point, I was going to keep listening to them. (I missed them again a few weeks later in the CH for … oh, Sea Wolf and Port O’Brien, I think. I don’t regret that choice, because Sea Wolf was amazing, but Dr. Dog may become one of those bands like Reckless Kelly; I want to see them and I just keep being unable to.)
I’m wickedly impressed with Anti-‘s release line-up for 2010, and not just because they’re re-releasing my beloved Lost In The Trees’ All Alone In An Empty House. (And I’m telling you now: when it’s released, go out and buy it. I won’t put it on my year-end best of because I’ve been loving that album for well over a year now and it’s been out for almost 18 months, but to new listeners, that album should be on every single year-end best-of list, because it is a fucking masterpiece.) They kick off their release year, for me, with Shame, Shame, and it is a tremendous album.
To go back to the first paragraph: Dr. Dog wouldn’t have been, at first listen, a band I’d have booked for Bristol. They’re not traditional in any sense of the word, a fusion of keyboards and lo-fi vocals and electric guitars — Dr. Dog plays indie rock in the best sense of the word. But there’s something logical, too, about last year’s booking at Bristol. The vocals, shared between Toby Leaman and Scott McMicken, carry a timeless sort of feeling, and I think if I had to make a comparison to someone in the tradition of rootsrock, I would pick out The Band — not for the songwriting or even for the pure sound, but there’s something about the aesthetic, the feeling of the music, the keyboard use, that makes me think of some of the Band’s later work, and especially of Rick Danko’s voice. (It’s a good thing.) They’re from Philly, but if this album had been recorded on a backporch somewhere between Boone and Asheville, I wouldn’t have been surprised. The slide guitar and twang of “Station”, the insistently uplifting drums and piano flourishes on “Unbearable Why”. That’s where I hear the roots that took them to Tennessee last year, and they’re stand-out tracks on an album of great songs.
One of the things that Dr. Dog excels at, in my opinion, is producing albums in a world built for singles, and Shame, Shame is an excellent album. Every song is distinctly indivdual and while there are certainly songs built for radio play — “Shadow People” is a supremely ear-worm-y lead single, and well-chosen — like Fate before it, this is an album that I will listen to as a whole. I think it will make an excellent summer companion to Blitzen Trapper’s Furr, quietly joyous albums that feel warm in their sound and their lyrics.
Obviously I’ve never shot Dr. Dog, so instead, please have a photo of a real dog. Close enough, right?
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