The Meat Purveyors
I imagine spending a day with the Meat Purveyors — Austin’s “Spice Girls of Bluegrass” — is a radically different experience than the one you would get from hanging out with, say… Garth Brooks. There’s no cushy tour bus, just a beat to hell van named Nora littered with fast food trash. There’s no entourage with TMP, just four folks traveling around “putting the ass back in bluegrass,” per smart aleck bassist Cherilyn diMond. They seem, ohh… just a tad more fun than Ol’ Pumpkinhead. When I met with them before their in-store show at Atlanta’s Criminal Records, I let slip that this was my first live interview. Singer Jo Walston cackled, “And you got us!?! You poor bastard. You’re screwed!” Luckily, that wasn’t to be the case.
The band is touring to promote their debut Bloodshot release Sweet in the Pants, the title of which diMond tells me was inspired by one band member’s high school nickname. Atlanta was the next to last stop before returning to Texas, or as Cherilyn put it, “Two days to clean underwear.” Once they get home, it’s back in the studio to record their follow-up record. And for Walston and guitarist Bill Anderson, it’s a return to day jobs as proofreaders for the Texas state legislature.
The band’s sound is pure, up-tempo bluegrass, with the mandolin picking of Pete Stiles and Walston’s sultry vocals adding a fine touch to originals like the creepy “Biggest Mistake” (“The biggest mistake I made is when I left you… in a shallow grave.”) They show fine taste in covers too — such as Merle Haggard’s “The Bottle Let Me Down” or Glass Eye’s “Dempsey Nash.” But it’s their waltz tempo reconstruction of the King’s “Burning Love” that leaves scars on your heart. In Walston’s hands, the song becomes less a celebration of passion but rather a wrenching confession of pain. I told Walston their version sounded as though the last thing the singer wanted was to be in love. She nodded and replied, “there’s probably some truth in that. We don’t see the point in doing a song like that unless you tear it completely apart and put it back together again in a different way.” Which they did brilliantly, perhaps propelled by a vision while visiting the Star Bar’s Elvis Vault. They performed the song in their show that night, opening up for the Wild West Picture Show. By the end of the first verse, the crowd was stone dead quiet, held in sway. A defining moment from a ground breaking band.
It didn’t stay quiet for long; they picked up the tempo with “Go Out Smokin'” — a pot anthem with the best opening line I’ve heard in a while, “you’re the lamest judge I’ve ever stood before.” By the time they encored with their Madonna Trilogy (yeah, that Madonna — a stand-up bass and a mandolin do wicked things to “Like A Virgin”), they had the crowd in the palm of their hand.
The future is Grade A Prime for the Meat Purveyors. They have a cut on the new Bloodshot Bob Wills tribute, a record out next year, and after a while on the road, new friends in new places. Yeah, a day with the Meat Purveyors is an interesting experience. And Cherilyn, send me a T shirt; I earned it.