Tramps, Traitors and Little Devils

Band: A Drag City Supersession
Album: Tramps, Traitors and Little Devils
Best song: “Leaving the Army” is my favorite song on the record.
Worst song: “Everyday” is my least favorite song on the record.

You know, in writing about supergroups in my bit about the Amalgamated Sons of Rest record, I never really stopped to contemplate about the indie/underground nature of the band. The term “supergroup” mostly exists for the purposes of bands like Blind Faith, Derek and the Dominos, the Dirty Mac, Damn Yankees, Zwan and other such bands that include stars as large as Eric Clapton or Billy Corgan. Ultimately, who — outside of people like me — gives a shit if Ali Roberts and Jason Molina record some songs with Will Oldham.

Not many. Which is a shame, because when Drag City released the Drag City Supersession record, it is an obvious homage to the origin of the word. And like the Kooper/Bloomfield/Stills collaboration, the record mixes covers and originals that showcase the participants’ great strengths. Of Drag City’s roster, it would be difficult to find better representatives than Edith Frost, Smog and Royal Trux.

In the Drag City case, it’s the ability to leverage the label’s lofi aesthetic and cater it to each member. For Frost’s songs and covers, there is a strength in her voice that also speaks to a vulnerability (which, not surprisingly, makes for the best songs on the record). The Lou Reed cover “Charley’s Girl” has Frost’s voice at its best, while “Leaving the Army” may be her most well-constructed song. Bill Callahan works the misanthropy angle — shocking! — is perfect for “Nothing Rises to Meet Me,” while a violin ending is well-orchestrated as a guitar doubles it. “Zero Degrees,” another Callahan original, opens the record in lovely fashion, as well. The song is perfectly suited for his low growl and the Neil Michael Hagerty loose guitar work. And, as a sucker for covers, I am completely in love with the Hagerty-sang cover of Sabbath’s “N.I.B.” It fits perfectly in with Hagerty’s Royal Trux thing, with a blues riff and a recklessness that borders on beautiful.

If supergroups are, indeed, a tribute to the original, the Drag City Supersession is a loving and fun one.

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    I'm Ross Jordan Gianfortune. I am not a writer, but I sometimes write here about music and my life. I live in Washington, DC.

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