All Them Witches Bring Magical Brew To Empty Bottle
By Casey Moffitt in Arts & Entertainment on Feb 10, 2015 8:30PM
photo credit: Donovan Cleave
This Nashville quartet has maintained an intense touring schedule since forming in 2012, developing a heavy, swampy, bluesy sound. It's part psychedelic and part riff rock, all with a loose groove and a heavy sound. This combination allows All Them Witches to really explore musical themes and wander into some wild jams, much in the tradition of Blue Cheer or Cactus. Somewhere along the way this art form went into hiding and it's cool to see a band like All Them Witches bring it back.
On their latest studio effort, Lightning at the Door, the band opens the album with a smoldering lick with some gnarly tones that evokes Kyuss, but with a swampy feel. Perhaps it's the harmonica work of Mickey Raphael—a longtime Willie Nelson sidekick—that gives it that southern flare. All Them Witches also can bust into some wicked riffs, like of "When God Comes Back," which makes us think of Mountain mashed with Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac. And of course they can go all out psychedelic without having to resort to cheap studio tricks like overbearing reverb and delay. Rather they do it through pulsing rhythm and repetitive riffs with thoughtful guitar and Fender Rhodes lead lines.
All Them Witches can get pretty mystical, lyrically and musically, but they never seem to leave the bounds of Earth. It's not spacey or cosmic mysticism, but rather more of a magic that binds nature together.
The theme of nature appears again and again throughout Lightning at the Door, especially in the song titles: "Funeral for a Great Drunken Bird," "The Marriage of Coyote Woman," "Swallowed By the Sea," "Mountain." It's as if All Them Witches are paying a sort of respect to the energy that binds all living things together.
And the bluesy, gritty riffs help to accent that aspect of the album.
Check out their video for "Charles William" and you'll see how the theme of nature and mysticism pops up yet again.
If you check out Lightning at the Door, be sure to pay attention to Robby Staebler's cool drumming. He's quick and deft with an impressive kick drum foot and lays down a swinging beat. There's also a beautiful decay on his crash cymbal. It won't be hard to pick up, as his drums sit right on top of the mix, providing a great foundation for the rest of the band, which can swirl around and stretch out their chops.
All Them Witches prides themselves on playing a different show each night. It's not just they pick out different songs to play, but rather will play different versions of a rotation of songs. They will go off on a jam for one song one night, and then tightening it up for the next. It's a gag they freely admit they've lifted from the Greatful Dead.
It's a good one. It's kind of fun to think that a band is playing a special show that night, one that never will be repeated for anyone else. And like the Dead, they've recorded a lot of these shows and put up live versions of a lot of their songs on their Web site.
It's not a stretch to say Thursday night's show at the Bottle will be special one, and one the band will cook up just for that one night only. It should be a hell of a lot of fun.
All Them Witches performs on Thursday, Feb. 12, at the Empty Bottle,1035 N. Western Ave., 9 p.m., $10. 21 +