Live at a Flamingo Hotel
Upbeat, feel-good, pseudo-jam band Dr. Dog released their first live album Live at a Flamingo Hotel back in January after 15 years of eccentric, attention-grabbing shows.
The energy and charisma of these shows more than anything else have created Dr. Dog’s cult following. Live at a Flamingo Hotel manages to capture the essence of Dr. Dog’s live shows and, by featuring songs from all seven of their studio albums, serves as a great introduction for a new listener.
Dr. Dog’s live sound is big. Vocal harmonies are a major tool used to fill space, while two guitars and a Rhodes wail in the foreground. Of course, they’ve got the classic drumset and percussion duo found in most jam bands. And on top of all this is a strange electric sound I can’t put my finger on.
It’s easy to pinpoint some standout songs on this hour-and-a-half tour de force. The cover of Architecture in Helsinki’s “Heart it Races” is a crowd-pleaser—the crowd’s voice booms back the chorus. “How Long Must I Wait” is built around the tightest riff on the album, and following that is the slow-paced and eerie “The Beach.”
Later in the album, a string of three songs is particularly ear-catching. “Ain’t It Strange” showcases the vocal talent of every member in the band. The two guitars soloing at the end of “Shame, Shame” is the best guitar playing on the album. And then “County Line” brings it back down to acoustics and vocals in a melancholy fashion.
Overall, Live at a Flamingo Hotel is a fantastic live issue for a band that has thrived on their live performances. New and old listeners alike will appreciate the variety on this album.
Black Cross. Black Shield
(This is American Music)
You don’t walk around the Chattanooga music scene for too long before you hear about Bohannons. I first heard the name when I moved to Chattanooga in January 2011 and then forgot it. You know what I never heard, though? The music. And now it’s March 2015, and I’ve got my hands on their fresh new album Black Cross. Black Shield.
Right out of the gate, there’s an obvious weight to the music. The album punches slow and hard, sinking deep into your stomach. We could talk about themes of loss and death, and those themes are apparent in the lyrics, but the strength of this album is its evocative melodies and chords, its rhythms that move your blood. The tone is at once ominous and bright, a faraway sun behind thick stormclouds.
Bohannons wastes no time with Black Cross. Black Shield. The first song they throw at you is the title track in a no-nonsense, like-it-or-don’t fashion. There is no frill or fluff here. The album’s first four tracks individually operate as tours of what Bohannons can do. “Black Cross. Black Shield” is angry Southern rock—soaring guitars, and crunchy, fuzzy bass. “White Widow” changes pace to campfire-plus-amplifier rock with chord-strumming and harmony-singing.
Then “Eyewitness Blues” hits you with a chanting chorus you won’t forget, and suddenly you’re listening to “Love Stunt” which is Bohannons’ rendition of the classic heartbreak song.
Then you get to the fifth song of the album (“Dias de las Muertas”), and things change. Black Cross. Black Shield takes a direction and marches forward. More of a dirge than a march, the rest of the album makes a person shiver and sweat. “Death in Texas” is somber and hypnotic.
“Darkest Night” cries at the moon with serious undertones of mental struggle. Then the distortion kicks up, guitar solos fly, and the album tramples full force into that good night. Everything escalates and collapses in on itself in the final moments of Black Cross. Black Shield, and the silence that comes after the final song ends feels like a hidden track on the album.