By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Too much pork for just one fork
America's fascination with the South comes from the curious notion that somewhere down there, amid the humidity, kudzu, polyester, cheese grits, and firearms--it's just more fun to be Southern. That's the perception that gave Billy Beer and CB radios their nanosecond of marketability, made The Dukes of Hazzard popular, and now sells Jeff Foxworthy albums.
Nobody exploits this view of living below the Mason-Dixon Line with more panache than Southern Culture on the Skids. Lead guitarist and frontman Rick Miller has a from-the-inside-out appreciation for the simple but effective hook. Sharp in profile, with an enormous soul patch that hangs below his chin, Miller pops his eyes, licks his lips, and leers and mugs his way through songs with an abandon that suggests a happy, guitar-picking goat.
Singer Mary Huff keeps the bouffant party gal alive in a post-B-52s universe, positively oozing too-cool-to-care detachment as she plucks her bass--even in the face of (as was the case at the band's last appearance at the Orbit Room) a relentless rain of condoms, thrown by audience members inspired by the album art on the band's previous release, Dirt Track Date. Drummer Dave Hartmann, in full nerd regalia (straw porkpie, sleeveless t-shirt, horn-rimmed glasses), is a drummer of the Bun E. Carlos quiet-but-weird-beyond-all-appearances school.
The Carolina-based band's repertoire reveals an appreciation for the role of food in Southern life--"Mexy Melt," "Banana Puddin,'" "Tunafish Every Day," "Carve That Possum," "8 Piece Box," "Fried Chicken and Gasoline"--as well as other aspects of life with a drawl: "Roll Another Number (for the Road)" (as Uncle Dave Bacon and Toxic Pig Fuck), "Moonshine Martinis," "Girlfight," "Shotgun," "$5 Shoes," "Roadside Wreck," and the endearing "Put Your Teeth up on the Window." They also have a keen sense of history, which they revealed with their cover of the classic Jeannie C. Riley cheese-nugget "Daddy was a Preacher, Mamma was a Go-Go Girl."
1995's Dirt Track Date marked their move up from indie cult to major label, and was as greasily appealing as a truck-stop Slim Jim. Vinyl Seat Sweat, last year's follow-up, shows Miller and company to be experimenting with a wider variety of sounds--organ, sitar, banjo, and horns all appear. It broadens their sound, but costs them a bit of momentum. Still, SCOTS is just plain one of the most fun acts you'll ever see, and that ain't just whistlin' Dixie.
Southern Culture on the Skids plays Trees Thursday, February 12.