White Hassle

White Hassle

Life is Still Sweet EP

Orange

Sometimes, drummers can amaze you by playing Brazilian polyrithms with their left hand while banging out gamelan with their right, all the while consulting with the waiter about the wine list. Then again, there’s drummers like Cheap Trick’s Bun E. Carlos, the Blues Explosion’s Russel Simins, or White Hassle’s Dave Varenka, who can nail you down to your chair with a couple flawlwess bars of blues shuffle.

Building on Varenka’s lookin-for-a-broosin skin pounding are guitarist/vocalist Marcellus Hall’s swaggering guitar and weepy harmonica. Hall’s voice is one of those unique instruments whose tone is easy to pick out but difficult to describe. If Bob Dylan or Lou Reed could manage to stay on key, it’d be something like this.

The opening “Watertank” churns through a boogeying message of optimism, cut through with jaw-dropping scratching and unexpected production (courtesy of Skeleton Key’s Chris Maxwell and drummer/turntablist Phil Hernandez. The title track isindeed sweet, and it’s hard to tell sometimes whether Hall is being completely sincere or hearlessly cynical. A back porch rendition of “Let It Be Me,” an oldie, “2 Fingers Crossed” sounds like scrappier Cake, and “Futura Trance” is 90% harp-wailing and 90% drum solo, with exacting acrobatics from both.

So there you have it, a five-plus song EP that’s durn near perfect. While you’re at it, check out other White Hassle and Railroad Jerk releases…

Orange Recordings, 4761 Long Branch, San Diego, CA 92107; http://www.orangerecordings.com/

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