CD Review of A Touch of Someone Else’s Class by Black Diamond Heavies
Recommended if you like
Black Keys,
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion,
Flat Duo Jets
Label
Alive
Black Diamond Heavies:
A Touch of
Someone Else’s Class

Reviewed by Mojo Flucke, PhD

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F
riends of the Black Keys, the Black Diamond Heavies look -- literally -- like a duo comprising Ministry's Alain Jourgensen and the dude who sweeps the Post Office parking lot in your town. They recorded their distortion-laden new album in the studio in the Keys' Akron Analog studio, where apparently the "distortion" and "audio sludge" knobs got turned up to 11 and were inadvertently busted off, probably in some convulsive dancing during a late-night mixing session.

That, by the way, is a good thing.

In fact, one could say that BDH is the Black Keys, except with a keyboard player instead of a guitarist to go with the drummer. Jourgensen lookalike (and kind of a soundalike, too) James Leg's chosen some great 'boards to hammer on: A vintage Rhodes with its tube amp intact and a Hammond organ along with various other props. Not the standard stuff from which the blues is crafted, but hey, Ray Charles made a living at it, and Billy Preston loaded the Beatles' Let It Be and scores of his own tunes with tons of blues from those very instruments.

It's a schtick good enough for a CD's worth of tuneage. To make blues duos work -- think about the latest rash of them, dating back to about 1988 with the Flat Duo Jets and Chicksaw Mudd Puppies, all the way to the present-day Black Keys -- all you really need is some vintage equipment, a marginal level of talent, and an overpowering energy and enthusiasm for your music. BDH has the latter in spades, and they pick some great cuts to cover, including Ike & Tina's "Nutbush City Limits" and Fat Possum blues guy T Model Ford's "Take a Ride."

They also write originals that come off more upbeat and less dirge-like than the Black Keys. Compositions like "Everything Is Everything" and "Happy Hour" rock on with a 1960s garage-rock abandon that a million white kids across the country jammed to, between their football practices and high school dances. Except garage rockers back then did the best they could to sound clean with the cheap gear they got on sale at Sears, while these guys deliberately muck up the whole mess to make it sound like a wild Mississippi juke joint whose sound system's been splashed with way too much whiskey, beer, and Thunderbird. The Rhodes is the perfect instrument for the job, especially when one plugs in distortion stompboxes and other effects to make them chords sound even earthier.

They come on a little strong with the black and pink album art, and in some ways could stand to emerge a little further out of the Black Keys’ cocoon and into their own, but for those few minor blemishes the Black Diamond Heavies are a nice little band who kick the tar out of most anything the major labels are trying to jam down your throat. And, in "Bidin' My Time," they even toss in some horns while Leg does a little fake David Lee Roth croon. What an oddly beautiful sonic reconstruction of something that never existed in the first place. Good stuff.

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