Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Withdrawals

Early on, even before I started to blog about local music, I discovered that practically every local band had a My Space Music page. They're a great source of music, photos and band info, a music blogger's treasure trove. The only drawback is that in order to gain access to the music, you have to sign up for a My Space account.  Once upon a time My Space was all the rage, now it's become the creepy bizarro version of Facebook. My Space Music is no different, it's infested with spam and those annoying auto-play pop-ups. Most bands update their page at a snail's pace, if at all, while other bands have moved on to Facebook and abandoned their pages. But, if you wade through the muck, the music makes it worthwhile. I came upon the idea of reviewing the sites and music while browsing through several music pages. My plan is to sort through them, review the music and pass along whatever information I come across. Before you thank me, I'll remind everyone how daunting the task could be, there are at least 200 local bands with My Space Music sites. I actually feel like Man v. Food's Adam Richman, a man who has taught me that the first bite is the easiest.
 I'm starting with The Withdrawals, for no particular reason, other than it's a band that has always intrigued me. They've been around since 1994, formed by Keith Thomas (lead vocals) and Andy Dunn (guitar,vocals) the line-up also includes Brian Ostrom (guitar) Danny Pfeifer (bass) and Josh English (drums). The Withdrawals are a jam band and list their influences as Widespread Panic, Dave Matthews and The Allman Bros. and that more or less sums up how they sound. They use those influences as a framework to create their own distinct sound, which they refer to as "Tribal Urban Desert Music" They create rather than copy and yet manage to avoid the long meandering jams that are the trademark of most jammers. What really sets them apart is Keith Thomas with his easy soulful vocals that instantly pull you into a comfort zone unlike any other. The guitars sparkle throughout with sinuous lead runs and dueling exchanges, the percussion is inventive while never heavy handed or excessive. Keith Thomas, however, shines through on every single song. I'm not one to declare anyone or anything the best ever, but if Keith Thomas isn't the best male vocalist Albuquerque has ever produced than I don't know who is. In my humble opinion Keith edges out James Mercer for that honor, yes! he's that good, the man doesn't have a bad song. The band always finds it's zenith, starting with the Midnight Rider vibe of "You're on my Mind" and flowing right into "Love Will Find Your Heart" which sounds like the band time traveled back to the Avalon Ballroom circa 1966. "Momma's in the Kitchen" is an easy flowin' song perfect for those 4:20 moments, let's just say that Momma ain't cookin no pot roast in that kitchen. "Ba Da Deeeeeee" is a tropical flavored jam that shines the spotlight on Keith's vocal range. Clocking in at over seven minutes, the song never loses momentum as it rises and cascades like blue ocean waves hitting the shores of Rocky Point.
"Gypsy Woman" sounds like an extremely lethargic ZZ Top, complete with slackadasical Billy Gibbons style lead guitar.  "The Bush" is a funky throwaway track that could be about 1. weed  2. George W. or 3. pussy, your guess is as good as mine.  "Free Jam" features some of Keith's best vocal work, pure righteous blue eyed soul. "What Am I to Do" is straight up southern rock with Keith setting them up and knocking them down with his masterful vocals.  "I Would be Happy" starts out as yankee reggae but ends sounding like Mickey Thomas during his stint with Elvin Bishop. Keith easily transitions from the sing-song cadence of reggae to the soulful pleas of a man at the end of his emotional rope. Along the way he punctuates the song with a falsetto and a yelp that would make Toots Maytal proud.  I found myself totally fascinated by the video for "Whatever you Want", shot on a New Year's Eve at the Spirit Room in Jerome,Az. it starts with the camera panning over a very noisy self absorbed crowd. It takes about a minute to realize that the band is not warming up, The Withdrawals, rather than try and overpower the crowd noise, simply start playing, while Keith patiently waits for an opening to start singing. Once under way the band builds the music up and the crowd is drawn in, I immediately understand the band's appeal, they're so good at what they do, that it's hard not to like them. Keith Thomas and The Withdrawals are one of Albuquerque's best kept secrets, but I for one wish that wasn't the case.  They've toured the western states extensively and have three albums under their belt; Smile (1996) Evolution (1998) and Good Man (2001) All three albums are available at the band's online store, plus an ep "The Withdrawals" recorded in 1995 and a cassette only "Live on KUNM" concert recording.  There are also several songs available for streaming, this includes "Live at The Wine Fest" (12 songs) six studio tracks and a video for "Peace & Justice", that was shot at a war protest in Albuquerque. The most recent posts on their music page are over a year old and their are no scheduled shows or releases listed.