Roy Jurgens on
Nashville’s All Them Witches are akin to a rusty claw hammer wrapped in velvet cloth soaked with bourbon. They’ll hit you hard enough to hurt you and get you drunk, but they won’t leave a mark. Such was the case at the Roxy on Friday night.
All Them Witches sound like from where they come from, and yet upon keen reflection they are so much more. Beneath the salty-sweet Southern groove lie shades of airy Brit psychedelia, weirdo jazz signatures and proper meat-and-potatoes Led Zeppelin.
Not to say frontman Charles Michael Parks Jr. is in possession of a Plantian yowl. Parks’ vocal kinship stands more alongside the mumblecore baritone of The National’s Matt Berninger, yet espousing a Lynchian killer on the road ethos. This speak-singing sits atop a foundation built by his fuzzed out Rickenbacker that looks as if it had survived a sawmill accident, roaring through a porcine Sovtek head splayed atop a battered Ampeg cab.
Robby Staebler resembles not so much a drummer, but a greased metalsmith hammering out horseshoes over a hot anvil. A country fried Moon with a Bonham thump, Staebler is blessed with pristine dynamics and a heavy thwack much in the way guitarist Ben McLeod is blessed with a nimble, syrupy tone and a big, fat crunchy honk. Tying this all together was keyboardist Allan Van Cleave, who baked hot, fresh rhythm guitar riffs on his Fender Rhodes.
All Them Witches have all the makings of an annoying jam band. God knows the musicianship is there. Yet thankfully, their meandering creations fall more into a sensual organic groove than mindless noodling. There is a sense of constructive deconstruction, repeatedly and simultaneously tearing down and building back up. There’s a bit of “Dark Side of the Moon” meets “When the Levee Breaks,” descending into a Sabbathian sludge, but all in a seven-minute span of one song.
Above all, this is a band that makes beautiful noises and is entertaining despite a lack of stage presence and the noticeable absence of a hit, which are difficult barriers to overcome. One could see this band achieving plaudits along the My Morning Jacket sphere of influence. Please may they stay away from the bloated atrocity that became Kings of Leon.
Their latest release “Dying Surfer Meets His Maker” continues their spaced-out explorations of musical cosmos, like and astronaut with grass stains on his knees. This is Tennessee stoner rock steeped in pig’s fat and ingested with psychedelic shrooms while on a dark desert drive to nowhere good. They are writing a score to a movie we’ll never see.