From the delta, down on the river…

JLP WPThere’s a dusty road on the Delta where a ramshackle roadhouse sits. A neon light is aglow as the sun starts to settle over the horizon. Inside a rock ‘n’ roll band have laid out their instruments on the aged wooden floor, amongst the spit and the gravel. Iggy Pop and Nick Cave strike up ‘Nobody’s City’, a 1987 demo by The Gun Club, and then Thurston Moore joins in.

It’s open mike night and Jeffrey Lee Pierce is the long gone host, ushering fans, friends, family and former bandmates to play his songs old, new, and unfinished. Debbie Harry wonders up into the spotlight, all raspy drawl and wolfish eyes, to sing ‘Kisses for my President.’ She puts in another stand out interpretation of male Americana for ‘Into The Fire,’ perfect next to Cave’s gothic tones on this duet.

Further feminine voices tonight create evocative and gentle versions, quite opposite from the scowl and thrash of the men. It reveals a tender treasure to those who had not previously dug deeper into Pierce’s trove of songs; Ruth Throat’s ‘Secret Fires’ is an absolute joy.

Pierce’s songs had a blues style lacerated with the wildness of punk, and they benefit from the southern voodoo madness of the covers. Mark Lanegan and Bertrand Cantat offer a gruff fragility, while Primal Scream are an anomaly with their sparse electronic take on ‘Goodbye Johnny’ helped out by a dubby mix from Andrew Weatherall.

At 70 minutes Axels and Sockets does suffer from being overlong. As a third instalment in the Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project series, the idea is perhaps becoming stale. However, the trilogy of tributes shows the range of influence Pierce had on the musos of the world, with a fourth still to come. This record contains some of the lesser known lights in The Gun Club armoury, but the quality remains high as the guests colour their chosen tracks with their own unique hue, a trait to excelling when interpreting other’s songs. Each performance receives cheers and warm applause, and at the close of the show, Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s talent receives a standing ovation in memorium.

This review, and others I’ve written, appear at fasterlouder.com.au

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