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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Cave Singers w/ Wooden Robot

Saturday, April 26 @ The Cactus Club

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  As many critics noted upon the release of Seattle band The Cave Singers’ debut album, the band members’ musical pedigrees suggest they’d be unlikely to attempt—much less succeed at—acoustic American roots music. Nonetheless, guitarist Derek Fudesco (of the now disbanded Pretty Girls Make Graves), vocalist Pete Quirk (of post-punkquintetHint Hint) and drummer Marty Lund (of Cobra High) released their acclaimed Invitation Songs in September 2007.

  Following the mad mazurkas of Milwaukee's instrumental sextet Wooden Robot at the Cactus Club on Saturday night, The Cave Singers marched through Invitation Songs' opening track, "Seeds of Night," led by Fudesco's ambling guitar and Lund's stomping snare.

  A sparse, neo-Americana tapestry woven of homegrown hospitality and warped with modernity, Pete Quirk's affected, nasal vocals channel both Blonde on Blonde Dylan and the storied Delta timbre of Charlie Patton huffing helium. Quirk's syncopated delivery renders near-homonyms such as "Helen" and "heaven" virtually indistinguishable, using language to loosely structure his expressive wail.

  On "New Monuments," a dirge with an a cappella with more than a passing lyrical resemblance to Leadbelly's "In the Pines,"the clarion mourn of Quirk's melodica underscored the desperation in his voice, mining familiar "Cocaine Blues" territory as he shouted, "I'm on drugs and there's a mirror, but I don't need to stare," and chanted, "I must be lost, I must be lost, I must be lost this time."

  Midway through The Cave Singers' set, Renaissance woman and Wooden Robot's musical saw player Faythe Levine joined her fellow Seattle natives for "Called," the haunting conclusion to Invitation Songs. After three false starts, Quirk broke down into impish laughter, while Levine resumed her place in the audience as the band moved on to "Helen," mourning the afterimage of love lost.

  Lund scratched along wildly at the washboard to Quirk's impassioned howls on the frenetic "Dancing on Our Graves," a departure from Lund's precise, punctual bass drum rhythms.

  Throughout The Cave Singers' brief set,half theaudience noiselessly trickled out the back door and into the din of the crowded bar, leaving a staggered halo of two dozen wrapped around the stage who were rewarded with an encore. It seems Invitation Songs are best answered by intimate gatherings of kindred spirits than by faceless mobs of intoxicated strangers.

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