Share LOST PROPERTY - James McCann's Dirty Skirt Band (Beast Records)
Think of this not so much as an EP of bits and pieces but a companion piece to the most recent album, "Bound For The Blues…" A five-tracker on great French label Beast Records, it's as great as anything James McCann and Co have released.

Maybe I don't get out enough but the one time I saw McCann and his Dirty Skirt Band live in Sydney it was one of those "where the fuck have these guys been hiding?" moments. They weren't just a backing band for a singer-songwriter but an empathetic unit that was deep into doing the songs justice. There's been a European tour since then and this vinyl release was probably done to give the band something to sell to the locals (they can't get enough of the black shiny stuff in the Old World.)

McCann and band deliver direct bluesy, lyrical rock with country undertones. "I Should Know" is one of those songs about heading home with guitars pulling as hard as heart-strings. "Two Ways To Die" might seem a fatalistic tease but says more in less than two minutes than most bands do over the course of a full album. Where Do You Go?" rumbles across the turntable like a thunderhead with jangling guitar lines and bluesy licks melding into something altogether more dark. The band works itself up three times before they're done with this one. File under D for Dynamics.

There's only one cross-over with "Bound" (the magnificent "Where Do You Go?") so if you have any commonsense, you will need to fire up the Internerd and click or hit up your last cool local independent record store to order it. It almost goes without saying that it sounds much bigger than the CD recording.– The Barman



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BOUND FOR THE BLUES... - James McCann (Torn & Frayed)
That James McCann isn't a household name is a national disgrace. The Melbourne-via-Sydney-and-Perth singer/guitarist packs an awe-inspiring quotient of talent and shows plenty of it on "Bound For The Blues…"

There's a harder production ethos than "Last Night I Met The Devil" and while it lacks the warm intimacy of that album, there are still lots of reasons to like "Bound For the Blues…" Much of the attraction is the songwriting and the playing of the Dirty Skirt Band is first-class.

Although his regular live outfit, this is the Dirty Skirt Band's first full album with McCann. They are band whose members are comfortable with each other and the guitar jams between McCann and Johanna Brockman on the extended "Last Night I Met The Devil", the scorching "Sidewalk" and the sax-assisted "Cut" border on apocalyptic.

As the title infers, these 10 songs have their basis in the blues but don't expect a tired take on 12-bar. Ripples of dry country rock and an undertow of swampy grooves permeate this album that at times crackles like heat on an outback plain.

McCann is a commanding vocalist who never lets the intensity of the moment overshadow the songs. "I Started A Fire" is a good case in point, uncoiling over the course of six-and-a-half minutes with an undercurrent of feedback scything through. The Dirty Skirt Band can play it deftly too, as the strident but at times title track testifies.

Half the songs top the six-minute mark so there's plenty of room for McCann and band to display their chops. Parts of "Bound For the Blues…" are about textures with sax and Hammond organ coming into play. Most are about noisy, and at times glorious, crescendos.

Top 40 fodder it is not but who wants to chomp on that sort of confected shit sandwich. McCann deals it straight. Pay attention. - The Barman


LAST NIGHT I MET THE DEVIL - James McCann (Bang! Records)
Know how it feels when you find something cool or valuable that was sitting under your nose all the time? Like when you pull a wad of long-forgotten, thought-lost banknotes from your washed jeans? I can correlate that with a recent live encounter with James McCann and the Dirty Skirts, the Melbourne band on a brief Sydney run. There was something vaguely familiar about the singer-guitarist/band leader in the farmer's hat. I knew he'd been an original member of bluesy angst merchants of the moment, the Drones, but the other pieces only came together weeks later...

James McCann had been part of late Sydney band the Lowdorados, whose demo is somewhere in the cupboard as I type and who were one of the better attractions on the lower rungs of the live ladder back in the mid '90s. The rest of his c.v. includes spells as the first singer for anarchic Hard Ons spin-off Nunchukka Superfly and as a part of Harpoon, a two-bass sonic attack (who I could take or leave.)

Anyway, back to that gig and the brief but scorching set of bluesy, country-tinged rock that McCann and Co put in was so compelling that I forked out for a copy of the this CD on the spot. Which is why you're reading a review.

I should have known. It was obvious. It's on Juan and Gorka's Spanish - sorry, Basque Country - label Bang! - which is fast becoming a home for Australian acts that might have slipped under the wire or gone out of print in their home country. The nine songs were recorded with ex-Lowdorados or Drones members in 2003-04 and most appeared on an album called "Where Was I Then?" on Shock. This version is the better (I picked that up recently). Here's the skinny:

James McCann plays saturated, thick guitar. The songs lilt or lurch, depending on their mood. Layers build simply, and tunes like "Black, Brown and Blue" grow almost imperceptibly, in this case on the back of unlikely partners like violin and distorted guitar.

McCann has a solid, soulful voice. I keep coming back to "Town's Full of Smoke" because of the way he drags the melody out of its depths in understated fashion- and then firmly but plaintively wrings its skinny neck as guitars stack on top of each other and the bassline arcs and falls.

I also come back to "Insight Is Gold" which is a little more obvious in its guise as straight-up rocker but no less effective.

McCann does Dylan on the lo-fi "Through the Night" and doesn't fall flat. That in itself says something. Even Bob does sometimes.

There's also a slide guitar song. Every album should have a slide song. Jim Selene does the honours on the chugging "Knowing Smile" and James even pulls off a part where he sings along and mimics the keening bottleneck sound.

"Heat Of The Belt" is stark and evocative like a mid-summer West Australian grain field and includes one of McCann's best vocals. You could call it a ballad, but be careful of stereotypes.

Did you ever hear a Neil Young album called "Arc"? It's a 35-minute tone poem of feedback, stitched together from live shows he did with Sonic Youth, around the time of the Gulf War. It works on one level but you wouldn't listen to it constantly without the aid of something derived from chemicals.

This album's closer suggests something similar but also sounds more edgy and less contrived. At nearly 23 minutes long, "She's Intermediate/Hoodoo Joe" might test the endurance of most sane people, but primal scream fans (the music - not the band) will hang in there, and be rewarded. Deconstructed but still musical on an elemental level, this piece renders the growled, yelped vocals almost superfluous, it groans under its own bodyweight before free-falling into thin air. Self-indulgent for sure but also weirdly cleansing.

I envy Melbourne people for their nightlife more than their weather, and because they can see people like James McCann live, every other week. – The Barman




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