Hill Country Live Presents:
Dressy Bessy, The Split Squad
410 7th St. NW
Washington, DC, 20004
"We never broke up," Dressy Bessy singer/guitarist Tammy Ealom says on the occasion of the release of KINGSIZED, her band's first new album in seven years. "It was never our intention to drop out, it just sort of happened. We were dealing with life, but we never stopped making music."
Indeed, the 13-song KINGSIZED makes it clear that, nearly 20 years into their career, Dressy Bessy are making some of their most compelling and accomplished music. Such melodically infectious, lyrically barbed new tunes as "Lady Liberty," "Make Mine Violet" and the anthemic title track are potent examples of the band's uncanny ability to wrap Ealom's personally-charged, pointedly subversive lyrics in sparkling, irresistibly catchy songcraft.
In addition to showcasing the band's musical chemistry, KINGSIZED also draws upon the talents of a wide assortment of friends, admirers, and contemporaries. R.E.M's Peter Buck adds distinctive 12-string guitar on "Lady Liberty" and "Cup 'O Bang Bang," while legendary Pylon frontwoman Vanessa Briscoe-Hay adds her voice to "Get Along (Diamond Ring).” Minus 5/Young Fresh Fellows mastermind Scott McCaughey plays keyboards on "Make Mine Violet" and "57 Disco" and R.E.M's Mike Mills sings on the band's distinctive rendering of the George Harrison classic "What Is Life," which appears as the b-side of the 7" single release of "Lady Liberty."
KINGSIZED, after the departure of original bass player Rob Greene, features an assortment of notable guest bassists as well, including Eric Allen of The Apples In Stereo, Jason Garner of the Polyphonic Spree and The Deathray Davies, Mike Giblin of Split Squad and fabled punk progenitor Andy Shernoff of The Dictators.
KINGSIZED also marks a return to the band’s early recording approach. As Hill explains, "With our first two albums, we were a completely D.I.Y. operation, and we recorded everything at home. Then we did our next three albums in the studio. Three or four years ago, we revamped our home studio, so we could record complete works at home. Now we have the sound quality of a real studio without the time constraints. We have enough time for stuff to jell and enough time to work things out."
While KINGSIZED features some of the most focused, organic music Dressy Bessy has ever made, the new album is consistent with the pursuit of joy and transcendence that's been the band's mission from its early days in its hometown of Denver.
Although such seminal Dressy Bessy releases as Pink Hearts Yellow Moons, The California EP, SoundGoRound, Little Music: Singles 1997-2002, Dressy Bessy and Electrified earned the band an enthusiastic fan base with their effervescent, uplifting pop tunes, they also caused some observers to miss the tougher edge of Ealom's lyrics.
Now that they're back in action with some of their strongest music to date, Dressy Bessy is happy to be back at work. "I feel like we're just starting to get good at what we do," Ealom states. "We've had a lot of time to hone in our sound, knowing what we want to sound like and figuring out what we need to do to get that. I'm really excited about the future."
"We actually kind of know what we're doing now," adds Hill with a chuckle. "We used to always be flying by the seat of our pants, but we're better players, Tammy is a better singer, and we're a better band. I think we've recorded the best album that we ever have, so our plan now is to just get out there and rock, then keep on rocking. We need our fans and we feel like they need us too."
The Split Squad
Conceived over cocktails, wine, and beers in 2011, The Split Squad is one of those “perfect storm” rock and roll bands that comes from a bunch of musicians who have done it all and have nothing to prove. While that may sound a bit boastful, the pedigree here covers about 140 years of collective rock and roll experience, from the most rarified of concert halls, down to the seediest of underground shit holes. These guys have both reveled and wallowed in it:
Eddie Munoz: Most famously known as the flash guitarist from LA’s legendary Plimsouls, Eddie has more recently been spotted in Magic Christian (alongside Flamin’ Groovies legend Cyril Jordan) and PA’s power pop stalwarts Parallax Project. Eddie’s “chaos theory” approach to rock and roll guitar is unique and immediately recognizable, yet squarely rooted in the timeless swagger of The Stones and The Yardbirds.
Clem Burke: Arguably one of the greatest living rock and roll drummers on the planet, Dr. Burke (Google that…it’s cool) boasts a resume that starts at CBGB’s in the 70’s and ends at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As a founding member of Blondie and a highly sought-after session musician, Clem has experienced nearly every aspect of the music business, but still has more passion to “climb in the van and take it to the fans” than most musicians half his age. To put it bluntly, there is no one on Earth like Clem…
Michael Giblin: Bassist/singer Giblin is the mad scientist behind The Split Squad, having assembled the project after his current band, Parallax Project, had crossed paths with all of the others on various tours and recording projects. Known in underground pop circles as a member of the much loved 90’s power pop trio Cherry Twister, Giblin has spent many years toiling away in the bowels of the music biz as a session bassist, band leader, producer, and generally good guy.
Keith Streng: Known far and wide as a founding member of one of rock and roll’s greatest (and longest running) institutions, The Fleshtones, guitarist Streng sets a standard for passion and dedication that few are able to follow. 30 years on (and counting), The Fleshtones remain one of rock’s greatest “sure things”: never a bad show; never an off night. They are as dependable as they are exciting. His rock-solid musicianship, combined with his high-wire stage antics, combine to anchor one of rock’s most joyful live experiences. He’s had books written about him, and documentaries shot on him. In a word…an institution.
Josh Kantor: Keyboardist Josh Kantor brings the wildest diversity to the mix. As a member of Boston’s Jim’s Big Ego, and the critically acclaimed supergroup The Baseball Project (featuring members of The Dream Syndicate and R.E.M.), Josh has rubbed elbows with a number of rock luminaries, but he still manages to find time to excel at his day job, which just happens to be as the organist for The Boston Red Sox. Yes, THOSE Boston Red Sox. As such, Josh possesses a skill level and musical vocabulary that few can match.
The group came together in Boston in the summer of 2012 to record an album, which ended up being a raucous and hilarious good time. Produced by Scott McCaughey (R.E.M., Minus 5, Young Fresh Fellows), the album features guest appearances by McCaughey, fellow rock & Roll Hall of Famer Peter Buck (R.E.M.), Hugo Burnham (Gang of Four), and Mike Gent (The Figgs). The resulting set of songs is a spirited and diverse trip through the influences and record collections of a ridiculously experienced set of musicians. And man, you should have heard all the stories….
Ladies and gentlemen….The Split Squad…