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This is the seventh part of a series of articles or interviews that have been published before in magazines that no longer exist. This one was originally in Oculus Magazine, Aug/Sep 1997; an update follows.
Dash Rip Rock: Dixie Fried Rock and A Bottle of Jack Daniels at Every Gig
Southern rock has come a long way in the past few decades, progressing through the influence of a lot of brothers: Burnettes, Everlys, Allmans, Van Zandts (aka Lynyrd Skynyrd), Slater and Doobie. Okay, the last two maybe pushing it, but the point is that southern rock as a form is constantly in flux and is currently circling back to its rockabilly roots.
Over the last decade, bands like the Stray Cats provided the listening public with the equivalent of Pat Boone doing “Tutti Frutti.” Recently, however, what is emerging from the underground is a rockabilly hybrid with large doses of punk and DIY sensibilities. In other words, it kicks butt.
In this vein, out of New Orleans comes Dash Rip Rock, a power trio if ever there was one. The band’s present incarnation includes founding members Bill Davis on guitar and most vocals and Hoaky Hickel on bass and “Jack Daniels” (as Davis explained, “It’s in [Hoakey’s] contract that he has a bottle at every gig.” The new kid is Kyle Melancon, on drums.
Davis often says, “We’re faster than [Reverend] Horton Heat, we’re wilder than the Cramps, and we’re better lookin’ than Southern Culture on the Skids.” These details are irrelevant, because while those other bands also have the talent, they don’t necessarily have the flexibility of musical styles.
Witness their latest release, Dash Rip Rock’s Gold Record (Naked Language). The band manages to flex their musical muscles over 15 numbers (plus one hidden cut, based on “Stairway to Heaven”) without contradicting themselves – a rare feat, indeed. After a rave-up cover of the instrumental “Rawhide,” they knock the listener down with a tale of rock’n’roll casualty/suicide, “Johnny Ace” (a much different and less romanticized take than Paul Simon’s “The Late, Great Johnny Ace,” which David contents he’s never heard). Other original songs on the CD contain a fine mix of pop sensibilities (“Isn’t That Enough”), a downright bizarre tale of love (“Liquor Store”) and a rockin’ social commentary about their home town of New Orleans (“DMZ”). In a number of odes written throughout their dozen years, Dash Rip Rock describe their love/hate relationships with the town in which they live. “We go to shows and meet all these people who moved away, and they love hearing these songs,” says Davis.
They also do quite a few covers, or should I say interpretations. Their latest collection includes two Hank Williams numbers: a Cajun version of “Jambalaya” and a speedy “I Saw the Light.” “No one,” Davis declares with a laugh, “expects us to play it that fast.”
Yes, Dash Rip Rock is very comfortable with covers. “When we played in Maine,” Davis adds, “they didn’t want to hear any originals, so we did every cover we knew. About 70 of them.” He continues: “In the small towns, the people are there to socialize, have a beer and dance, and we can play as sloppy as we want. The big city audiences are there to see the band. We are more careful about how we play.”
He emphasized this point by describing the band’s last gig at Brownies, one of their favorite New York venues (in which I was in attendance). “We knew there would be a lot of press there, so we went out to play well.” He continues, “Sometimes when we play we just go out there and let it all out.” Davis also remarked that either way, the band enjoys what they’re doing. They proved that by playing over two hours of rowdy fun. Despite the promoting for more “punk rock” by the opening band that night, The Cash Registers, Dash Rip Rock played a balanced set, mixing punk, pop, rockabilly, country and the kitchen sink.
Lots of stage antics go into a Dash Rip Rock set, and the fun never stops. Someone from the audience is picked to play tambourine, and Hickel shares his bottle of Jack (“unless he wants to get drunk.”). Though not “choreographed,” the act contains certain bits that have been standard for a while. Case in point: Melancon’s striptease during “Let’s Go Smoke Some Pot,” which is done to the tune of “At the Hop,” one of those mocking songs that gets accept ed by mockers and mockees alike. It may also become their breakthrough song on college radio.
Dash Rip Rock’s roots are all over their music. Hell, Davis’s been to Graceland more than two dozen times (“every time we pass through Memphis”). But they also exhibit other influences that expand their vision and increase their talents and showmanship, way beyond the levels achieved by most other bands.
Bill Davis is currently the only original member of the bad, though DRR is still recording. Their latest album, Country Girlfriend, on Abitian Records, was released in 2008. The current line-up is Bill Davis as singer/guitarist, Patrick Johnson on bass guitar, and Eric Padua on drums
Country Girlfriend (2008)
Hee Haw Hell (2007)
Live From The Bottom Of The Hill (limited release, 2003)
Sonic Boom (2003)
Ned, Fred and Dickhead (limited release, 2001)
Hits and Giggles (2000)
Dash Rip Rock's Gold Record (1996)
Testosterone (Australian-only release, 1995)
Get You Some of Me (1995)
Tiger Town (1993)
Boiled Alive (1991)
Not of This World (1990)
Ace of Clubs (1989)
Dash Rip Rock (1987)