A band that admirably stripped itself down from trio to duo when its guitarist left, Black Diamond Heavies pack a lounge punch, and Alive as Fuck is a well-recorded set before a friendly crowd.
The song list is taken from the prior two studio lps, 2008’s A Touch of Someone Else’s Class and Every Damn Time from the year before that.
But have I heard this stuff before?
It’s a supposed truth that affecting the blues and tinging it with some country or other trad genre makes for some crowd pleasing.
The Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash tried to grab that ring and didn’t make it. Drive By Truckers inexplicably take a bland interpretation of blues country and any other mainstream music and ride that to the bank.
But enough is enough. Black Diamond Heavies are good thieves and the victim is Tom Waits—and it comes out in spades when they bring it live.
“Bidin' My Time” is a pretty straight lift of late-70s Waits, and I immediately grabbed Heart Attack and Vine from the rack and slapped it on. Ronnie Barron’s Hammond on “In Shades” never sounded so good as it does throughout Alive as Fuck. The whole set sounds terrific, a band on fire in the right place to deliver on the right night, a perfect storm for a good disc.
Only it’s BDH tinklier John Wesley Myers delivering in that cool fashion, and I worry that he thinks no one will notice. Waits in 2005 sued a European division of General Motors and its ad agency for the blatant voice rip used in ads. I’m not sure if he objected to the theft of his style or the fact that it was used to pimp these pieces of Euro tin. In 1991 he did the same to Frito Lay and has taken action against Audi and Italian carmaker Lancia. Now it’s plain that Waits objects to corporate pilfering of his sound. News accounts quote Waits as saying, as no one else can say, "Commercials are an unnatural use of my work. It's like having a cow's udder sewn to the side of my face. Painful and humiliating."
But if BDH were to make a buck off this Waits tribute thing, watch for the litigious Waits. [Alive]
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