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Thursday, July 24, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 73.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
Music

TOUR STOP

The Black Diamond Heavies won't be tamed
Rock beast


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Nobody would ever accuse the Black Diamond Heavies of being too polished. Instead of concentrating on byzantine guitar riffs or intricate rhythms, the punky, soul-addicted duo rub a thick application of grits, gravy and well-used deep-fryer grease on everything they essay. The apogee of their recording career is a just-released rendering of the dangerously down-to-it Ike and Tina Turner hit "Nutbush City Limits." It's crude and mangy, and once you've heard it, even the hardcore blues-rockin' of fellow travelers the Black Keys sounds polite by comparison. In fact, that's pretty much true of everything on their new CD, A Touch of Someone Else's Class.

The twosome's sparkplug is drummer Van Campbell, a descendant of bourbon distillers who bashes away on his instrument with feral force but never loses the groove. Frontman/ keyboardist John Wesley Myers is equally untamed, and when this fire-breathing son of a Baptist preacher grunts out the handful of lyrics to "Nutbush" or the stomping blues drone "Fever in My Blood," he sounds more like a beast of the forest than a fork 'n' knife-using city dweller.

At points, Myers spits some of the gravel out of his throat and makes like a Southern Tom Waits, adding a dab of back-alley romanticism to the mix. That's no crime, and, frankly, sometimes the Heavies are so aggressive that a little sonic relief is in order.

But lyrical ballads really aren't their strong suit. Fact is, these Tennessee-based madmen really get it on when the chord changes are nearly nonexistent and the smell of fermented sour mash is hanging heavy in the air. When they're rockin' the floorboards in this mode, Campbell and Myers could send an army of punky blues revelers straight down to the devil's fiery pit. And be thanked for it.

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