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Boston’s legendary Barrence Whitfield & The Savages’ new album Dig Thy Savage Soul is a wealth of atomic-powered, sock it to me R&B and rock & roll hoodoo. Barrence, possessing otherworldly pipes that range from a low feral growl rumbling the nether regions to a scream that would make Little Richard blush, belts out originals and crate-diver covers with the formidable and aptly-named Savages. They keep his back with a punk rock grit and blues ferocity that lives in the frets between Chuck Berry and Jack White. Together, Barrence & the Savages lay down a groovy racket that’s so thick and greasy, you need moist towelettes near the hi-fi.
Dipping their gut-bucket deep into the well of America’s dirty musical soul, Barrence & the Savages’ sound is a sweaty elixir that enlivens, exorcises, and energizes on Dig Thy Savage Soul. “The Corner Man” bursts out of the gate, as much a child of the Sonics as a father to the Dirtbombs; it’s the Savage-Mobile neutral-slamming out of the garage. “My Baby Didn’t Come Home” and the love letter to the iconoclastic Oscar Levant (a man in chaos in search of frenzy...Google it, man.) burn with a roguish swamp mojo; bonus points for the killer jump-soul horn section. On “Daddy’s Gone to Bed” and the badass Jerry McCain tune “Turn Your Damper Down,” Peter Greenberg’s guitar plays like the lost Sun Records collaboration between Howlin’ Wolf and Carl Perkins. “Hangman’s Token” starts as a low-fi hill country shimmy harkening back to the early days of Fat Possum Records that then explodes into a tasty hard rock feast.
Out front, Barrence is preaching to a congregation we definitely want to join. “Bread,” a Bobby Hebb B-side done with a Glimmer Twin strut, has Barrencematter-of-factly distilling all the nuance, confusion, and frustration of any relationship into the simple inarguable truth: “Only one thing in this here world/ to make you popular with all the girls/ and that’s BREAD/ that’s what I said.” Lee Moses’s “I’m Sad About It” is a slow burn gospel headbanger, conjuring a completely unhinged Al Green tossing sweat and blood soaked scarves from a fiery pulpit. Sho’ nuff. Where’s that towelette, again?