March 14, 2000
(Self recorded available at mp3.com and www.kudzukings.com)
Sometimes the best music is happening in your own backyard and you don't even know its there. That is definitely the case with Oxford, Mississippi's Kudzu Kings. A live music phenomenon, The Kudzu Kings are so fresh and new it’s hard to imagine they could have existed right under our noses without us hearing about them. Yet, they've been fusing blues, country, rock and bluegrass into something truly revolutionary for years. These guys are definitely not your Uncle Vern's country-western! With bluegrass picking and rock-god guitar solos, The Kings create something closer to Gram Parson's American Cosmic Music than traditional country rock.
“Hangover Heart” starts the CD off with a bang and a fiddle. It also shows off the wry sense of humor that sets these guys apart from the ordinary. How many songs can really capture that feeling of "sobering up from the love of a lifetime" by finding your ex's Kotex in the medicine chest? They continue to mix tongue in cheek lyrics with great banjo in “Bryan's Song.” I too "am amazed at all the crap that's on the radio". And maybe that's why we haven't heard of these guys. In the era of copycat prepubescent blond belly buttons and toyboy bands, its easy to see that it wasn’t video that killed the radio star--it was big Corporate America and format radio. Nothing this original could ever be packaged to fit what fills the airwaves today. And Thank God that the Kings haven't tried to conform despite their mama's prayin'.
Just when you think you get the schtick, The Kudzu Kings change directions ever so slightly with more straight ahead love songs like “Tennessee, Bridge” and “My Guitar,” the quintessential boy/guitar love song. And then they turn once again with the bluesier “Jaco's Lament” and “Fortunate Blues.” They cap off the album with a country, rock reggae song (you really can't label this stuff) about trains and ganja in “Bound for Zion.” It's fun and it's really well played.
But the beauty of this music is not what it is but what it is not. It is not boring, predictable, overproduced, electronic or sung by anyone named “Baby.” This is real live music with a minimum of overdubs played by real grown-up musicians who are truly talented and not just great dancers. If you buy just one CD this year this is definitely the one you should get. Better yet buy two and send one to your favorite label and maybe they will see what real southern music sounds like!
-- Thomi Sharpe
Orifice (formerly clone #9)
(PCR Productions-available at www.mp3.com)
What has become of rock and roll? Orifice, a band currently plying their trade on- line and in clubs, features two medical doctors in its line-up, Ben Marble, M.D., and Chris Cave, M.D., both on vocals and guitar. And I used to think Simon & Garfunkel were too smart for their own good! Look mommy our baby rock and roll is all grown up...and he's a Doctor! Will wonders never cease. I guess this is the natural progression of music -- acoustic guitar plugs into electric guitar plugs into synthesizer plugs into computer and now suddenly we all need a degree. What would Elvis think?
So now for the big question -- how does our American Medical Association-approved band sound? Pretty damn good actually. The debut album by Orifice is a science fiction inspired kick in the groin concept album about cloning called ...clone #9. This nine-song cycle is very much in the vein of Nine Inch Nails or Marilyn Manson. And after listening to the CD, I am happy to report that the intelligent and successful among us are just as f***ed up as we are. In songs like “Longing for Silence,” “Nothing You Can Do,” and “Your Number's Up,” Orifice convey a feeling of alienation and helplessness in the face of a brave new world which threatens to crush the individual.
What I think Orifice is trying to get at here is that when machines are used to create people it becomes increasingly difficult to separate the person from the machine. This concept is portrayed in music that is rooted in industrial sounds but retains a sense of delicate beauty. Sophisticated and brutal, clone #9 is an arresting debut by a band which lives up to its academic pedigree. Now I have to ask.... If orifice can write their own prescriptions what happens to the pill doctor when they go on tour?
-- Thomi Sharpe