A few years back I surprisingly ran into Dave Sherman outside a Gaithersburg, MD grocery store and suffice it to say I was shocked shitless to be talking to the “Retroman” himself – about his band Earthride (whose Vampire Circus LP was, at the time, rightfully kicking my ass after having taken my full name), his late 90s/turn of the century days with Wino and (Gary) Isom (as Spirit Caravan) – and as an aside, I doubt anyone will challenge my claim that Jug Fulla Sun (1999) is one of the damn smoothest sounding doom and blues records the 20th century ever had a chance to call its own, in addition to the awesome back story of that band – Wino overcoming personal hardship to pick up his guitar and humbly reenter the music scene, only to join Sherman and Isom as the third hand of arguably the best doom trio of the past 20 years; I think we all get the picture – the history is rich and the names influential and ultimately genre defining. So after Sherman kindly gave me a promo copy of Earthride’s Something Wicked, I had hoped that his career (apart from Spirit Caravan) would continue to thrive and he’d remain active in the heavy rock underground.
Well it seems that he’s only been gaining momentum since that time, and with Isom back at his side, they’ve recruited one hell of a six member southern fried wrecking squad – Weed Is Weed sees the Dave ‘Sherm” Sherman (vocals)/Gary Isom (lead/slide guitar) combo backed by the dual axing, riff n’ rolling Jason Fisher and Rob Portillo (guitars) with Darren Waters on bass and Cougin handling the sticks; the band, until now, has kept their gem of a debut album, Blunt Force Trauma, under wraps and almost off the radar, doling it out only to those lucky enough to catch them live (originally released January 2013). Luckily the dudes over at Ripple Music put a stop to that nonsense and packaged this motherfucker for mass consumption. The brass tacks synopsis: 10 tracks of loose, lethal, brain cell killin’, weed lovin’ doom…including one ode to pussy (yes, there is a straight shooting galloper called Eat Pussy…and it rocks).
But don’t let the tongue in cheek humor take anything away from the seriousness of this album; while not delving into spiritual, political, or occult themes (like some of Sherman’s previous outfits), Weed Is Weed opts for a more primitive route – the almighty green bud is the muse and these six shooters pair a heavy fisted, fuzzed out soundtrack – songs like Low To No and Big Green Patch wrench guts and melt faces with seamless grooves and down tuned blues hooks – all capped off with Sherman’s gargled glass gutturals; no one’s ever accused him of having a great singing voice by traditional standards but y’all take note: he fucking tears into this record with a rabid charisma that commands the helm. Big Green Patch is all about lightin’ up the sweet leaf but tune in closely to the Fisher/Portillo dual rhythms and melodic chorus riff – it’s easy to lazily throw together some songs about getting high and not giving a god damn – but it’s another to craft quality songs and execute; these dudes certainly have a handle on song craft, and given their experience and respective resumes, it’s no wonder how an awesome album like Blunt Force Trauma comes to be.
But the real beauty here is the way all six players interact – they rock like a well-oiled, wild machine (like a band should basically). Cougin pounds like a three-armed beast (one for the booze, two for the sticks), twisting every established notion of drumming into a progressive, forward thinking affair. You expect a kick, he throws in a snare; his timing is tip top and the complete disintegration of sound in the doom heavy final minutes of the title track reinforce this point – Weed Is Weed may be crass and primitive on the surface (I love it), but these boys are a bit deeper and more cerebral than a casual glance might show – write them off and you’ll regret it.
When I heard that Isom was handling third axe and slide for this album I was excited to hear him in action – his chops behind the drum kit for Spirit Caravan are nearly beyond reproach (check out Courage, Outlaw Wizard, Chaw, or just about any of that trio’s output) – but Weed is Weed’s One Hit Wonder gives us a taste of his licks. Again, a cool blues ‘riff and crawl’ leads into a slide heavy chorus that’s just sweet sugar to the ear; and speaking of true riff n’ crawl, the band milks the shit out of a creeping chug on Alligator Crawl – a nice throw back to the slick grooves of Spirit Caravan’s Fang; the theme’s pretty clear: there are obvious parallels between Sherman and Isom’s previous band(s) and this current six piece; it’s also clear just how much of a contribution they made to those previous bands – as modest and gracious as Wino is, I could only imagine that playing next to him one undoubtedly catches a bit of his shadow; Weed Is Weed lets us know plain and simple that these boys cast a shadow of their own, rocking with roughened abandon and an intelligent ear for what every red-eyed reefer king is questing for.
Once again we have a case of experienced, old school muscle bringing it home with a well written, kick ass collection of tracks (this seems to be going around these days thankfully). When all the dust (and smoke) settles on this one, take my advice and fire it up for a victory spin. You won’t be disappointed.
Scribed by: Jeremy Moore