As biographical album tag-lines go, they don’t come much more suggestive than ‘self-recorded in a log home set in the Catskill Mountains’. After all, that’s the place where the original Woodstock was held. It’s where The Band were photographed for their Music from the Big Pink album, and is mentioned in their anthem, ‘Time to Kill’. The area is also home to the legendary Bearsville Studio, and is where Mercury Rev are based. Rip Van Winkle fell asleep in the Catskills. They’re not short on associations.
Already, you’re probably assuming of She Keeps Bees – a bit weird. Lo-fi. An alt.folk/countryblues bent. Very possibly bearded. Well, some of that’s right, but Brooklyn duo Jess Larrabee (vocals, guitar) and Andy LaPlant (drums) play their DIY folk-blues along lean, anguished and thoroughly unrootsy lines, while often kicking raucous alt.rock ass.
Dig On is the duo’s third album and ranges far and wide in focus, tone/texture and intent. Think of Karen Dalton as produced by Jack White, or Cat Power (the nearest point of comparison for Larrabee’s desolate, honeyed rasp) fronting a minimal Nirvana and you have an idea of their smouldering intensity. ‘Saturn Return’, ‘Found You Out’ and ‘Farmer’ affect the kind of gritty grind fans of Dead Weather and early Kills will recognise, but on the soulful ‘Make You My Moon’ and ‘Calm Walk in the Dark’ they channel the black silence of a country night, the star-studded sky spread overhead like a velveteen coverlet.
Yes, the title Dig On has ’70s connotations and the record is riven with deep grooves, but SKB avoid retroism in favour of a down-home recipe that’s recognisably their own.