Without sounding maudlin, most of Philadelphia’s punk veterans are gone – dead or out of business. Punk rock’s origin story was in the mid-to-late 70s, what do you expect? Besides, with local impresario and friend David Carroll having cashed in his chips, what fun could be left in it?
Thankfully, Dixy Blood – the still durable assemblage featuring one-time members of Sickidz, Pink Slip Daddy, Jukebox Zeroes, Creem Circus, The Lotras The Nomads – answer my sorry question with a resounding ‘fuck that’ and a ‘yee hah’ as Clarence “Mick” Cancer, Rich “Snatch” Lustre, Ms. Betty Loo Gee and Moe Jo release “Do Hillbilly Sheep Dreem Of Dixy Blood” this week.
Considering that Dixy Blood commenced to show off their country leanings – think Conway Twitty meets Hank Williams, the latter in hardcore/psychobilly mode – the “lost” recording of “Hillbilly Sheep Dreem” is something of an anomaly. Produced after their debut album, “Songs Of Love Lust And Loss,” and a bluntly-put EP, “Baltimore,” the “Sheep” project fell outside of their twang-only realm. There’s TexMex-cali in the “Dreem” mix, just as there is hair metal, psychedelia, and a heavier dose of vocals from Betty Loo Gee, all while maintaining Dixy Blood’s punk country vision. Aiding and abetting the ceremonial county and bash is members of Philly-born Ben Vaughn’s combo. That’s always good for a mess.
“Ethel Merman, Conway Twitty, Warren Smith, Jimmy Rodgers, Townes Van Zandt, Charlie Feathers, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Rhythm Rockers, Clyde Stacy and the Nightcaps, Ernest Tubb Bluegrass, Thump Shortnin’ Bread, The Memphis Klitz, Silver Threads, Joan Harris and her Oxtrot, Betty Loo versus The Cackle Sisters in an LSD breakdown, The Lotras ode to Chikkin Butts, Sons of the Pioneers, Governor Jimmie Davis’ Sunshine Lament and Ethel Merman reprise…” is what Rich Lustre claimed as Hillybilly Sheep Dreem’s influences.
“We had been working on this for most of 2018 and part of 2019,” Lustre later told me. “We had put it on hold, not sure how to finish it, and then the pandemic hit, which gave us motivation and time to complete the work. We wanted to put it out digitally for free during this time. We really weren’t sure it would ever be released, So in a strange way, the pandemic helped force the release. We recorded this in Haddon Heights, NJ at Gradwell House, a fantastic studio with a great owner and engineer Dave Downham. The sessions went great, we had lots of fun and energy. Did most in 1 or 2 takes. What took a while was getting all the guests in: CC Crabtree, Bob Bell aka Corvus E. Bellwether, Mike Vogelman, Gus Cordovox. But what really took a long time was mixing the thing. However, we had it done by early 2019, so it sat for almost a year. Now that it’s out and, in my opinion, pretty great, I wish I had completed it sooner. Oh well, better late than never. As for your question about releasing it in this horror show we call life in 2020, it’s only rock and roll. Also, see the last line on the liner notes; ‘we could all use a good old-fashioned belly laff,’ now more than ever.”
Good point. Find it at www.dixyblood.bandcamp.com.