Kindred spirits: Asylum Street Spankers, the Gourds
Show: Friday at Hill Country. Show starts
at 9:30 p.m. 202-556-2050. www.hillcountrywdc.com. Free.
In “Everybody’s Got a Banjo,” a dusty funk tune on the Defibulators’ new album, “Debt’ll Get ’Em,” the band pokes fun at the hipsterization of Americana with the standout line “If you don’t know how to play it, well it still looks cool.”
It’s tongue-in-cheek humor from a seven-piece country-rock crew that dwells in Brooklyn and features plenty of its own nimble-fingered banjo rolls. But the Defibulators’ sound falls more in line with such Texas outsiders as the Gourds and the sadly defunct Asylum Street Spankers than anything coming from the indie-folk sect.
The group specializes in rowdy, punk-fueled twang highlighted by heaps of blue-collar wit and courtesy nods toward traditionalism. Electric roadhouse riffs meet harmonica howls in the rockabilly charge of album opener “Holy Roller,” while a fist-pumping singalong chorus anchors the honky-tonk blues of “Working Class.” In the relaxed song “Real Slow,” the lead vocals of Bug Jennings and Erin Bru unravel a boozy heartbreak tale through an old-school duet in the spirit of Johnny and June.
“Debt’ll Get ’Em” showcases plenty of reverence for classic country, but as a band that began by filling sets with Black Flag covers, the Defibulators can’t help but exude an underlying frenetic energy. It’s on full display in “Cackalacky,” a gritty, full-throttle foot-stomper about an Appalachian picker who moves to New York City seeking stardom. It’s more well-placed irony from a band taking full advantage of the urban revival of roots music.