Song Premiere: JD Wilkes & The Dirt Daubers, “Wild Moon”
On September 24, Southern Gothic group The Dirt Daubers will release their third album, Wild Moon, on Plowboy Records. Though the evocative songwriting of JD Wilkes and Jessica Wilkes’ fierce vocals remain the same, Wild Moon features a dramatic change in sound, going from an acoustic, old-timey-influenced sound to incorporating blues and rockabilly influences. We caught up with frontman–and Legendary Shack Shaker–JD, who answered a few questions via email about the band’s new, no-holds-barred record and sent over the title track.
The Dirt Daubers are one of the first acts on the Plowboy Records roster. What appealed to you about signing with this label?
It was Pokey LaFarge who clued me in first. He had recorded a tune for their Eddy Arnold tribute and told me what a pleasure it was working with Plowboy. They have awesome personnel, a great budget, aesthetic, and they produce music that the “Nashville Establishment” would deem “subversive.” Not subversive as in “anti-establishment,” but subversive as in roots-based and somewhat intelligent. You know, good music.
Your previous records were acoustic, and while Wake Up, Sinners had a punk energy, it was rooted in traditional and old-time music; here you’re electric and incorporating more elements of classic rock ‘n’ roll and blues. Why that shift? Was it a planned change in sound?
Well, Jessica and I were doing our best to fit into that very exclusive (and somewhat snobby) “old-time/bluegrass” world. However, there’s an instant scrutiny you undergo anytime you go near a bluegrass instrument. It’s a shame though. Old timers have told me that no such attitude existed in the Depression Era. It is a snobbery that has developed in a postmodern pop culture of “too much free time.” So now she sings and plays upright bass and I sing and play the blues harp (for which I’m better known anyway). However, Jessica and I still write songs from a similar place. Her tunes are just as bold and sassy, and mine still try to tap into a “southern gothic” vein. But there’s a lot more blues and rockabilly in our sound now…more soul and grit. And regardless of what the snobs think, I still get out my banjo for a few tunes during our live set. Nazis be damned!
What’s the songwriting process like? How does the band work up arrangements?
Jessica writes her own tunes and I write mine. We compare notes and try to find songs that are compatible enough to go back to back on a record. However, in order to have the luxury of picking and choosing, we have to be prolific, so it’s constant work coming up with enough material. After we choose the tunes we have the guys drive up from Atlanta to arrange them with us in our living room. Before long, the tunes sound good enough to record and voila! A Wild Moon rises.
What was the inspiration behind the title track?
It’s a story about a very sexy subject: the Amish. Actually it’s a very sad story that was “ripped from the headlines,” as they say. A Western Kentucky flash flood claimed the life of several Amish children who were swept away when their family buggy capsized. Fans of my other band, The Legendary Shack Shakers, will recognize my songwriting style: narrative, gothic, and well, verbose.
What was your experience like working with Cheetah Chrome?
Cheetah is the man! He thinks outside of the box and suggests ideas that we probably would not have thought of on our own. That’s what producers are for, though. He’s a legend for a reason and we are extremely honored to not only have gotten to work with him, but just to meet him!
What was the recording process like?
We tracked live at the legendary Sound Emporium (O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack, Robert Plant/Alison Krauss, etc.), then went back and fixed a few things. Tom Waits’s sax player, Ralph Carney, added his tracks and I went back in and added some keyboard stuff. It was fun! You shoulda been there!
Wild Moon is the Dirt Daubers’ third album. How has the band evolved from the first record to this one?
The first record was jangly and adorable. The second one was jangly and kinda ornery. This new record, however, kicks ass.
What’s next for the band?
National and international touring. A high-dollar music video release, one that was shot in an eye-popping Art Deco theatre in Kentucky. An upcoming book from the History Press about barn dances in Kentucky. Let’s see…did I mention I’m from Kentucky?
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