|Southern Culture on the Skids:
Double Wide and Live Label: Yep Roc
Not to disappoint anyone right off the bat, but listening to Southern Culture on the Skids’ new live album, Doublewide and Live, is in no way a substitute for experiencing the wonder of SCOTS (for that is how they’re known to their fans) in concert. If you can’t see ‘em in front of you, there’s just no way that any audio document – no matter how good – can properly reproduce the effect of the group onstage in their tank tops, Hawaiian shirts, truckers caps, and, in the case of bassist Mary Huff, with their hair teased up to here. (Okay, I know, it’s probably a wig, but don’t spoil the image I have of her backstage, using five or six cans of hairspray to get her coif just right.) It’s silly – some, like my wife, would even say it’s dumb – but it’s an important ingredient in the SCOTS experience. Otherwise, songs with titles like “Liquored Up (and Lacquered Down)” (dedicated “to big hair…and high balls”), “Doublewide,” “Cheap Motels,” and “Dirt Track Date” come off decidedly less ironic than they’re intended.
So, anyway, as long as we’ve gotten that out of the way, and you understand that, even after groovin’ to these sixteen tracks, you still need to go see SCOTS for yourself, we’ll be fine.
The contents of Doublewide and Live were recorded at Chapel Hill’s legendary club, Local 506, over the course of three nights in November 2004. Each night’s performance found the band playing to a crowd of diehard hometown fans and working from a different set list, with the song selection stretching throughout the band’s entire career, from 1991’s Too Much Pork for Just One Fork through 2004’s Mojo Box. Guitarist Rick Miller clearly learned a lot of his riffs from Dick Dale, as he readily proves on “The Wet Spot” and “’69 El Camino,” but this isn’t just about some sort of Southern surf experience. This is a mixture of rockabilly (“Cicada Rock”), old school country (“Whole Lotta Things,” which Johnny and June Carter Cash could’ve done serious justice to), and just plain ol’ rock & roll (“Mojo Box“). The tracks that best clarify the SCOTS experience is about are “Banana Pudding,” where Miller lays down a sermon about the band’s philosophy even as he praises the funkiest dessert he knows, and set closer “Meximelt,” which finds the band in extended jam mode –which finds them incorporating Dale’s “Miserlou” into the song – to end the proceedings. Sadly missing from this album are classics like “Eight Piece Box” (which to this day results in the band being pelted with fried chicken), “Daddy Was a Preacher and Mama Was a Go-Go Girl,” and “Viva Del Santo,” but, for consolation purposes, the first two tracks do appear on the 1993 live EP, Peckin’ Party.
Southern Culture on the Skids are the flip-side of the Drive-By Truckers; where the Truckers embrace their heritage and perhaps take it a little too seriously at times, SCOTS aren’t afraid to have a little fun with it. Listening to Doublewide and Live gives you just a hint of what a night with the band is like, but, rest assured, it’s only the tip of the iceberg.