|Jenny Angel & The Dusk Devils, by Memphis Mike
Remember the old days when you had to rely on word of mouth and maybe, just maybe, the occasional newspaper or magazine article on a great band you'd never heard of? Well, the interweb has pretty much made those days obsolete... much to the chagrin of the pop-oriented mainstream. Now, with the simple click of your mouse you can find almost every band worth hearing and then some! Yessirree, the internet has been good for R&R!
Case in point: Some years back, I had the good fortune to make the aquaintence of one, Miss Jenny Angel. Whilst updating my band's MySpace page, I came across a friend request from this young lady. Her face looked familiar. Turns out I'd seen her on The Blasters' live DVD. After a few messages back and forth, I found that she and her band The Dusk Devils are a good rockin' band from Bakersfield, CA (home of Buck Owens and the Bakersfield sound!) that play R&R/rockabilly the way it's meant to played: loud, fast & fun! And fun they are!
The Dusk Devils aren't looking to recreate 1958. They're not looking to reshape the world of music. They play music they love and they play it the way they love it! Fronted by the aforementioned Miss Jenny Angel, The Dusk Devils mix 50s style R&R, rockabilly, honky tonk, boogie woogie, blues & RnB into a joyous noise that fills dance floors everywhere they play. Jenny Angel does the lion's share of the singing (in a very sweet & infectious voice) and also plays piano (she proudly notes that she is one of the few who play it standing up while fronting a band) while usually adding some aesthetic flare by sporting rather short skirts. Yes guys, she's as easy on the eyes as she is on the ears! The rest of the band is filled out with Phil Hickerson (guitar and vocals), Mark "Krambo" Powell (bass and vocals) and their latest addition, Mr. Randy Journey (drums) none of whom, thankfully, wear skirts of any length on stage.
Jenny and her Dusk Devils count among their influences such diverse artists as Chuck Berry, The Blasters, Professor Longhair, The Gun Club, The Coasters, Louis Prima, Gene Vincent and The Collins Kids, just to name a few. For most Americans, Miss Angel's tastes in music are unusual. Having grown up in a time where synthesizers were more the rage than twangy Telecasters, Miss Angel claims to have first been bitten by the boogie bug at around age 16, when during a trip to Bleeker Bob's to buy records (alas, this gives away her age a bit) she heard for the 1st time the music of The Blasters, Los Lobos and The Cramps... all of which she claims "... ruined & saved me all in one, like a punch to the gut when you really need one. It woke me up & shocked me to life!! "
Luckily, she came from a somewhat musical background so the transition from fan to performer was an easy one. As she puts it "we got a piano when I was 5, so throughout my life I've had that as my best friend except for 11 years of bad behavior when I couldn't really play. Dad used to sit with my sister & I when we were little & play songs on the acoustic guitar & we'd sing along to songs like "The Union Maid," "The Gettystone Light," songs like that - salty, socialist, silly. I guess mama's grandparents & great uncles & aunts were really musical, the kind of family that would sit on the porch on a sweltering California afternoon & sing & play. Mama used to sing with her college choir, & they even won the Eisteddfod in Wales. They were the first Americans to do so". Factor in a few boogie woogie piano lessons from the legendary Gene Taylor (Canned Heat, The Blasters, Fabulous Thunderbirds) and what you get is a gal who can pump them 88s like nobody's business!
While The Dusk Devils often eschew originals in favor of obscure (and not so obscure) covers, they play both with a passion and fervor that any fan can relate to. Miss Angel discusses the Originals Vs. Covers issue this way: "Well, I did an interview with Phil Alvin (of The Blasters) on this topic ... I used to stubbornly think there was no reason to add to the already existing pantheon of American music, valuable & inspired music, but my conviction was kind of arrogant, really, because it assumes if I can't be creative enough to reinvent the wheel in a manner different enough to have listeners feels they're hearing something new & fresh, no one can do it. Absurd! Phil gave his argument about "once there were iceboxes, but now there are refrigerators," how basically nothing wholly new ever can be created; we just "make the fix," the adjustment, & something "new" is created. So now I write songs. I write them because I'll be in bed at night or in the shower or driving & one jumps up & bites me or smacks me & I gotta write it down. I don't have the Brill Building mentality about songwriting, since it's not my vocation, but now that I allow myself to write & not censor or judge (about every 5th to 10th one comes out halfway decent), the songs in general flow. It's quite exciting!!! And why the heck not just try?? The reason to do covers or to interpret an existing song would be for the joy of interpreting the tunes we love & to "bring forth the collective knowledge of those that came before".
When asked the type of venue that The Dusk Devils usually play Miss Angel answers, "We have played local little honky-tonk spots like the Kern River Inn, Ethel's, Vinny's, & the last-standing real honky-tonk in bakersfield, Trout's. The more atmospheric bars we've played here are places like Narducci's & Sandrini's, both of which serve basque &/or italian food. We played Buck Owens' Crystal Palace. We played Tio Leo's, a rockin' swing joint in San Diego, the Queen Mary for a rockabilly weekender, many places in Los Angeles & Hollywood, out in the high desert for another rockabilly weekender, & the farthest north has been Fresno several times & at The Lamplighter Inn for a few cool rockabilly shows. We've also played lots of charity shows, like Relay For Life, which is for cancer research... but heck, send us plane tickets & we'll play anyplace you want us!
The Dusk Devils' discography is a bit spotty but most of their songs are easily found on iTunes and the legendary Art Fein (www.sofein.com) is slated to produce their next release (if I don't beat him to it! -MM). In the meantime, you can find out more about the delightful Miss Jenny Angel and her band The Dusk Devils online at www.myspace.com/theduskdevils as well as a number of performance videos on YouTube.
Until next time kids, if you can't be good, at least be good at it!
Memphis Mike, 3 February 2010