She’s a heavy drinker, she’s big, she’s brash, she’s burgandy, and her name is Rhonda. Smelling like a bunch of dudes and rolling down the highway at about 70 mph, we are happy to call Rhonda home on the road. We are excited about the upgrade, and keep a look out for the beauty herself in your town. Rock n’ roll.
Somewhere up there in the hills of western North Carolina a lot of bodies are buried, and Pierce Edens is the man with the locations. There’s no evidence that a cop, D.A. or judge can bring forth, mind you, but he clearly knows something; you can hear it in his twisted, tortured vocal bray, part Tom Waits growl, part Van Morrison howl, a soulful-yet-serrated instrument that conveys far more than even its owner might intend. You remember how George W. Bush once remarked how he could see into another man just by looking at his eyes? The same applies to Edens and his voice.
Over the course of two dark, dank evenings in the back room of Asheville’s Lexington Avenue Brewery, Pierce Edens & the Dirty Work laid down this baker’s dozen songs—the shows were also filmed, so there’s a corresponding DVD release for Live—and in the process managed to reinvent the whole notion of what “mountain music” is all about. Edens’ tales are unremittingly rural, dirty and dusty like a half-forgotten dirt road to nowhere, swampy in places like an equally obscure cattail-clogged pond, fraught with losers trying for one desperate, potentially violent last shot at the gold but dotted with glimpses of goodness when the grace of God shines down on one of those losers and he tries to do the right thing. From dynamic opening track “Jailhouse,” a Steve Earle-like rocker that details a life perennially beset by trouble (“I never got in trouble on my own,” protests Edens, “[but] the Devil came a-campin’ on my doorstep…); through the gospel-inflected blooze of the elegantly disheveled “Good Man” (“I never’d gone down this road if I had known it would be so long”); to moody psychedelic epic “Ghost On the Radio,” a slow-burn noirish anthem featuring a guest horn section to give it a Band/Los Lobos vibe; this is one of those rare live albums that completely blows away any of its studio-sourced peers. You can practically taste the sweat hanging in the air, smell the booze coming off the breaths of the audience.
And I’ve seen him play live myself, so I’m not just flipping matchsticks in the air with all these comparisons and metaphors. Edens is the R.F.D. (Real effin’ Deal), and when he and his band have their collective back against the wall, there’s trouble in store. Best step aside and let ‘em pass if they come your way…