Dead Rock West: Live At McCabe's — Glitter & Gold Record Release Celebration
Concert review by Eric Sandberg
Photos by Eric Sandberg
If Dead Rock West were ever to saunter onto the stage of America's Got Talent, and stand before whatever four schlubs are the current sitting judges, they could sing any song from their repertoire and shortly find themselves covered in Golden Buzzer confetti.
Their music is as American as music gets, whether they're singing covers or their own first rate songs, the combined voices of Cindy Wasserman and Frankie Lee Drennen immediately evoke the Everly Brothers, without copying them. They clearly embrace the similarities, having just released their second collection of Everly's covers Glitter & Gold, which also features one new song written by Drennen and Exene Cervenka.
The Cars' Elliot Easton and The Blasters' Dave Alvin let loose on guitar and two tracks feature the late, great Ratdog bassist, and brother to Cindy, Rob Wasserman. Many of the tracks also feature The Section (String) Quartet.
As worthy counter-programming to the Emmys, Dead Rock West played an intimate show at McCabe's Guitar Shop in Santa Monica Sunday night to celebrate the release of Glitter & Gold. They opened the first set as a duo, performing an impassioned rendition of the title track from their previous, John Doe produced, album of all original songs More Love.
Then, as is custom, Wasserman launched into a powerful accapella reading of the hymn-like "Tell the Angels" from their Peter Case produced album Bright Morning Stars, serving as a walk-on for Dead Rock West's band, consisting this evening of Geoff Pearlman on electric and acoustic guitar, David J. Carpenter on uke bass and upright bass, and the natty Phil Parlapiano on keys.
The first set heavily showcased songs from the brilliant More Love, including "Stereo," "Boundless, Fearless Love," "Nail Gun" and "Darkness Never Tells," featuring a fantastic San Francisco psychedelic extended tele solo from Pearlman.
...at this point I would like to digress from my admittedly dry account of the evening's festivities, because I have a purpose here, and that purpose is to get you to check out Dead Rock West. I do not possess the talent to describe how wonderful they are. Cindy and Frank knew, coming down the creaky wooden stairs, that the audience was going to be on the smaller side — the folding chairs were set with two spacious aisles, did not extend to the back wall and were not all filled.
Yet they thanked the diminutive, but exuberant crowd for being there on a Sunday night opposite the Emmys and performed as if they were in front of a sell-out crowd at the Hollywood Bowl. Cindy Wasserman is a sensational vocalist who can out warble more famous divas with one tonsil tied behind her uvula. Frankie Lee Drennen gives everything he has to each song. Like a method actor, he becomes the heartsick people in his lyrics, his face contorting as other spirits seem to inhabit his body.
The touch players who back them add delightful color to the performances but Dead Rock West is powered by Drennen's acoustic guitar and the arresting voices of the pair. I have no doubt that a set with just the two of them would be no less enthralling.
Towards the end of the show Dead Rock West played several brand new, yet to be recorded, songs that suggest their next album of original material could take them to yet another level.
This band deserves an audience. Calling all hip cats who need something to get excited about!
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Eric Sandberg: My true opinion on everything is that it's splunge.