Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
The Philly six-piece plays a brand of harmony-drenched boogie that's oh, so, au courant. But in a timeless sort of way. There are three guitars, a bass guitar, drums, keys and a saxophone. And regular four-part harmonies. With hints of blues, pysch rock, R&B, rockabilly and Western swing, it's a sound that's bound to affect even the wall-huggers.
"It'll be a dance party for certain," co-lead singer/guitarist Ben Dickey said last week by phone. He and his mates were just outside of Asheville, en route to Chattanooga in a 1975 GMC RV ("just like the one in 'Stripes' "), to play the fourth gig of their two-week tour through the Southeast and Chicago. "We're bombastic. Everyone will feel like their pants are on fire."
That's a promise a generation of Little Rock music fans are likely to take seriously. Back in the mid-'90s, Dickey was a central figure in the city's punk/DIY scene. He played in a series of kinetic bands: Class of 84 (briefly), Dropout, Hiram Ragon Experience and, most notably, Shake Ray Turbine, a math-rock-y four-piece that spent time near or on top of the local music heap in the late-'90s before members moved to Philadelphia, where Dickey's been, on and off, ever since.
Soon after the band relocated to Philly, it changed its name to The Unfixers. When it dissolved, Dickey formed Amen Booze Rooster, a rollicking folk-punk trio that Dickey brought to White Water in 2003, the last time he's played Little Rock. When Amen Booze Rooster ended, Dickey took up with Drew Mills, a Philadelphia singer/songwriter (Aspera) he'd collaborated with since the late '90s. Along with Mickey Walker and Quentin Stoltzfus (both of the Philly band Mazari), Dickey and Mills formed Blood Feathers and cut its debut, "Curse and Praise," in 2006. It was well received, but Dickey said the band always envisioned a bigger version.
In 2007, Dickey and Mills planned to escape Philadelphia to regroup in Prescott, Ariz. Dickey moved, but circumstances changed for Mills. No matter. Dickey found a new band: A Bob Wills cover act that toured the senior center circuit called The Prescott Playboys. He was the youngest member by 38 years. The fiddle player in the band was 92.
"I knew who Bob Wills was, but I didn't know many of his songs. I auditioned maybe 10 songs, and they asked me to join. The first show we played, we did 50 songs. I had no clue. Some of the structures I understood, but some of them were like a different language. It was a wonderful experience."
When Dickey returned to Philly, the band expanded its ranks, adding Patrick Marsceill, Tracy Stanton (Bardo Pond, Matt Pond PA) and Little Rock's Sam Murphy (a local music hero in his own right for his work in Class of 84 and, especially, Chinese Girls). The expanded incarnation of Blood Feathers cut a sophomore album, "Goodness Gracious," late last year that they're currently touring behind.
The album was released on Philebrity, a record label a Philly blogger and entertainment lawyer started. It's an arrangement not far removed from Shake Ray Turbine's deal with Little Rock-born File 13 Records — friends helping friends.
"We tried to do the whole shopping thing for the first record, and I didn't like it," Dickey said. "I missed the idea of my friends doing it and being responsible for the ground rules and the physicality of getting the process done. Everyone involved lives within 10 blocks of each other. The organization is, in some sense, scattered, and the money isn't there. The band is responsible for doing things it wouldn't be in a lot of situations. But I don't know, that seems like the way it should be."
Dickey said the band is upbeat about its prospects.
"We're on the road right now. We're making money to keep us moving. And we've got studio time to start cutting track for the third record."
Something else that won't hurt: In October, it's playing a handful of dates with The Walkmen and AA Bondy. And possibly returning to the road with The Walkmen in the spring.
Yet another reason to attend: Little Rock super group Greers Ferry — Isaac Alexander, Rob Bell, Joshua, Brad Williams, Zach Holland, John Crowley — offers sweet, sweet yacht rock in a rare performance in the opening slot.
Blood Feathers with Greers Ferry
10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 4
White Water Tavern, $5.