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Southern Culture on the Skids, Mojo Box

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You’ve gotta admire a band that resolutely sticks to its fannish muse – no matter what the current commercial consensus – especially when it manages to hit some of yer own personal pleasure nodes. For me, Southern Culture on the Skids is one such group: a rollicking trio of hillbilly surf riders who’ve seen their career careen from record shop label obscurity to major label push back to indy roots rockdom all in the space of a decade. Mojo Box (Yep Roc) is the group’s current release, and I’m happy to say it’s more of the same: swamp rock tributes to double-wide trailers and halter tops, delivered via nimblefingered guitarist Ric Miller’s trademark drawl or lacquered-up bassist Mary Huff’s Kate-&-Cindy indebted vocals, alongside the occasional luridly titled gee-tar exercise.

Where other current guitar bands may strip mine the Ramones or Velvets for their nu pop sounds, Miller and company would much rather layer their lyrics over obscure surf instrumentals. When they wanna do their obligatory sad song, instead of going for Coldplay melancholy, SCOTS will take the old Mexicali border route (“Where Is The Moon”), complete with a slather of brass riffs. In this worshipful adherence to the sounds of great ol’ 45’s, the group plays some of the same chords as psychobilly ravers like the Cramps, but where that band finds its inspiration in psychedelic casualties like the Chocolate Watchband, the Southern Culture crew are just as likely to borrow from 60’s blue-eyed soulmen like Wayne Cochran or Tony Joe White.
If it was delivered with a touch less heart (or crotch) most of Miller’s skiddish musings would be just plain novelty music. But listening to Mary resurrect Jody (“Endless Sleep”) Reynolds’ “The Fire of Love” over Link Wray-ish guitar riffs – or Ric as he lusts after an attainable “Swamp Fox” – and you know these North Carolina natives are singin’ more than campy redneck jokes. And as I sit here typing this in the middle of a snowbound February, there’s a lot to be said for music that evokes the joys of drinking beer and spinning tunes on a warm Friday nite in an open grease-stained garage. Gets me smiling, anyways. . .

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About Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman is a Books editor for Blogcritics. With his lovely wife Rebecca Fox, he has co-authored a light-hearted fat acceptance romance entitled Measure By Measure.
  • Eric Olsen

    Thanks Bill, I love SCOTS – “Liquored UP and Lacquered Down” is one of the greatest songs ever written, or at least a REALLY good one!

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    plus, they put on one helluva fun rock show.

    i got to see them at the Middle East in cambridge, ma…total fun from beginning to end.

    Mary Huff singing “House Of Bamboo” at somewhere past one in the morning…now that was a good time.

  • keith

    hey bill,
    man you hit the nail right on the head…this is one band that you won’t ever have to worry about selling out. these folks do it for the love of doing it, and if you’ve ever seen them in concert, its so easy to see. I’ve seen the quote supergroups like the stones, zeppelin, fleetwood mac, eagles, and rush just to name a few…and none of them come close to matching the fun and goods times had at a SCOTS show. my only regret is that more people don’t know about them…while a part of me would like to keep them all to myself and the few people in the know..another part of me would really like for this band to get the recognition they deserve. it really pissed me off when a friend show me rolling stones top 100 guitarists and joan jett, and the guy from white stripes made the list, but rick miller didn’t. what kind of crap is that….guess that’s why i’ll never buy rolling stone !

    if your reading this and don’t know about SCOTS…go to your nearest music store and pick up a copy of mojo box, or plastic seat sweat, or any of their stuff for that matter…cause it’s all great stuff !

    keith