Ubangi Stomp presented another great night in the Grand Social with JD Wilkes & The Dirt Daubers. Ubangi had previously promoted the previous incarnation of the band which was the more old-timey acoustic based trio of JD, Jessica Wilkes and Mark Robertson. This was the line-up that recorded their debut album Wake Up Sinners. JD and Mark were founder members of Th' Legendary Shack*Shakers.
This current incarnation of the Dirt Daubers has plugged in and gone electric and while not quite the full on audio assault of the Shakers they still back a mighty punch. Jessica has now moved over to playing the upright bass while still sharing the lead vocals with JD. He takes over the bass when Jessica steps up to the lead microphone. They have now added Rod Hamdallah on electric guitar, Rod was also a member of the Shack*Shakers in their last line-up. The drummer is the brooding bearded but engine room ready Preston Corn. They are an integrated and exciting quartet who cover their fusion of southern gothic roots, delta blues and urban punk.
After some small problems with the sound the Daubers soon settled into a groove that built through a set of songs that will appear on their next album to be released later this year as well as songs from the Shack*Shakers and Dock Boggs. The sound mixes Wilkes' excellent banjo and harmonica playing over the solid bass and drums bedrock that drives the music along at the pace of a midnight train. Over this is Hamdallah's Silvertone guitar playing. He crosses blues, rockabilly and rock 'n' roll influences into a distinctive sound that perfectly complements JD's contributions.
JD Wilkes is still one of the best frontmen around. A showman of the old school who performs the songs like a vaudeville entertainer of bygone times, using his body and face as much as his voice to emphasise the song themes and to hold the attention of the audience. But that doesn't in any way take away from Jessica Wilkes own delivery or Hamdallah's strong presence stage left. When Jessica completes her first vocal set JD in mock disappointment states "they like you better than me". Truth is this audience likes this band period.
What is strange is that they haven't picked up a bigger audience. There may be some confusion between the Shack*Shakers and Dirt Daubers. Whatever name that JD Wilkes performs under he is worth catching live. He has always made his live performance something that stands on its own apart from the recorded versions of his songs, something that personally is important to me as when I go see a band play live I don't want to hear a flawless rendition of a recorded track. The Dirt Daubers give you that. They deliver the full live experience. One that should be seen in it's natural setting.
So come on, wake up sinners - redemption is at hand and will be available again before too long.
Review by Stephen Rapid. Photography by Ronnie Norton