“A Molten, Mercurial, Ramshackle, Runaway Train of a Record, Every Note of Which Feels Like it's About to Fall Off a Cliff”
Blistering New Blues/Rock CD by SPIN DOCTORS Set for April 30th; ‘If The River Was Whiskey’ (Ruf Records) to be Accompanied by U.S. Tour
USA TODAY Previews Album with Five-Song Exclusive Premiere
On their blistering new blues/rock album ‘If The River Was Whiskey,' Spin Doctors deliver a ten-song collection of original songs, described by lead singer Chris Barron as a "ramshackle, broken carriage running down a cobblestone hill, with pots and pans, and a screaming baby..." The CD is set for an April 30th release on Ruf Records, and will be accompanied by a U.S. tour.
This is the blues album the band was always meant to make, and their confidence shows, as they give the songs lots of room to breath and let the tracks come alive via the road-tested musicianship of Chris Barron (vocals), Aaron Comess (drums), Eric Schenkman (guitar) and Mark White (bass). With no overdubs, irreverent lyrics, soulful drums and guitar licks that are on fire, ‘If The River Was Whisky' captures lightning in a bottle and further cements Spin Doctors' reputation as a live act to be reckoned with. Perhaps Schenkman puts it best: "we've been playing together for 25 years & we're all badasses!" Listen to streaming samples, here: https://soundcloud.com/spin-doctors/sets/if-the-river-was-whiskey-album
USA TODAY's Elysa Gardner ran an Exclusive five-song preview of the album: "The Spin Doctors, one of the little alt-rock bands to break out big in the early '90s, are back with a new album and tour." Read the full 3/1/13 preview, here: http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/music/2013/03/01/sample-new-spindoctors-album/1954199/
The project took shape as the band was touring the world behind their warmly received ‘Pocket Full of Kryptonite: 20th Anniversary Edition' in 2011/12. The reissue and its bonus materials earned a huge wave of coverage in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, NPR, New York Magazine, Relix, Associated Press, Huffington Post, NY Daily News and dozens of other key outlets. In a live review, Nate Chinen of The NY Times seemed to predict the band's return to its blues roots and a shift from the pop/rock repertoire it had become known for: "Their sound hasn't aged a bit: it still reflects fondness for the honky-tonk lurch of the Rolling Stones, the psychedelic reach of Jimi Hendrix and the rubberized funk of the Red Hot Chili Peppers." Chinen even highlighted the band's performances of the tracks "Off My Line," a bluesy complaint, and "Hard to Exist," a slow-burn shuffle — songs that favor cohesion over catchiness and point toward an alternative version of the Spin Doctors as a hook-enabled jam band, no longer judged by past success."
Barron explains: "We all have a very deep reverence for the blues. It's the music that really is the roots of all we do. Last year, when we were performing Pocket Full of Kryptonite for the 20th Anniversary, we wanted to play "deep cuts" in the encore. When we asked some of our fans over there which tunes they wanted to hear, to our surprise, they wanted to hear the old blues stuff. Well... we had such a good time playing it, and it sounded so good, that we toyed around with the idea of making a blues record. The more we thought about it, the better it sounded -- we could continue to forge back into our roots and play the music that we started out playing while we were forming our identity as a band."
The new album was recorded at Aaron Comess' His House Studios, and was recorded & mixed by Roman Klun. To achieve its salty, back-of-the-bar sound, Klun recorded on Pro Tools and then mixed onto a 1/2 inch analog tape machine at the studio, before the band brought it to Ted Jenson at Sterling Sound to master. The result is a warm, rich, undecorated, old-school album that is reverential of the blues and sounds as if it should be on vinyl (and indeed it soon will be, as the band plans a special edition vinyl release).
Comess puts the band's blues roots in further context: "Our brand of rock and roll stems directly from the blues and funk. I cut my teeth playing blues gigs in my hometown of Dallas Texas and Eric did as well in Toronto and then NYC. Mark grew up playing funk in NYC so the blues was like a close stepbrother to him. We all met up in NYC in 1988 and Chris had a handful of original blues songs, which we collaborated on to get work in New York. Chris may not have had the gigging experience that the rest of us had but he had an honest understanding of the blues and where it came from and gave us the ability to make our own version of this music with his lyrics and understand and respect for it while making it sound like the Spin Doctors. To play the blues you must understand the language but more importantly play honest, truthful music from the heart. That is exactly what we did recording these songs in those few days in NYC."
Schenkman adds: "We've always meant to make a blues record because we were originally a blues band, but we got known for a rock/pop record. So this past August, we went into Aaron's home studio intending to cut a live demo of a couple of our blues to test the waters with it...but we have so many original blues kicking around (old & new) that at the end of a great day of live recording, we had 'If the River was Whiskey'. We kinda surprised ourselves, but in retrospect it's not that surprising at all, since we've been playing together for 25 years & we're all badasses...hope you enjoy our handmade, no over-dubs, dancin' NYC blues!"
Spin Doctors – Preliminary U.S. tour dates – more will be announced soon:
||Virginia Beach, VA
||Mohegan Sun Casino
Spin Doctors recently completed a new UK tour, during which they previewed tracks from ‘If The River Was Whiskey' to overwhelmingly favorable responses. In Liverpool's Sound and Vision, writer Ian Hall praised: It was a "tremendous set...and if the title track alone is anything to go by...then the band are going to have more than the feeling of a Renaissance period ahead of them. Bluesy, captivating and generous with its appeal, it's a great piece to buy whilst at the gigs. For anyone who may have caught the band in the early days and on their tour dates since in this country, it was noticeable that that they are back to their best live. The Spin Doctors remain a cracking band with some of the best characters in music, playful, musically obliging and with just that extra something in their set that sets them apart from many of their contemporaries."
Spin Doctors - If The River Was Whiskey – Album Bio:
You think you know the Spin Doctors. Think again. When the legendary New York quartet release If The River Was Whiskey on April 30th through Ruf Records, casual fans will discover the secret past the hardcore have never forgotten. To the wider world, the Doctors might be the multimillion-selling icons behind hits like Two Princes and Little Miss Can't Be Wrong, not to mention the classic Pocket Full Of Kryptonite. But in 2013, Chris Barron (vocals), Aaron Comess (drums), Eric Schenkman (guitar) and Mark White (bass) are reconnecting with the flat-broke twentysomethings who scraped for dollars at the sharp end of the Big Apple blues circuit. The Spin Doctors have come full-circle.
"We were four guys in our twenties," remembers Aaron of early days in the late-'80s, "and our goal was to write our own songs and make a living doing it. The blues is such a big part of our roots, but one of the reasons we came up with such a big catalogue of blues songs back then is that we'd play these downtown blues bars in New York. You were supposed to play blues covers... but we were actually playing our own songs!"
We all know what happened next: the hits, the hysteria, the fame and the money ("When were selling 50,000 records a week," remembers Chris of the band's explosion circa 1992, "I'd walk into a mall to buy underwear and 300 kids would surround me!"). If The River Was Whiskey hits rewind. It's the deep-blues album the Spin Doctors almost made before megastardom came knocking. It finally bottles those near-mythical songs from that sweatbox circuit. It's simultaneously a tipped hat to the band's lost past and the freshest record you'll hear all year. "Every note feels dangerous," smiles Chris. "It's just like this ramshackle, broken carriage running down a cobblestone hill, with pots and pans, and a screaming baby..."
The concept to revisit these songs struck as the Spin Doctors toured Europe to toast the 20th anniversary of Pocket Full Of Kryptonite, and polled über-fans David Landsburger and Daniel Heinze on what they'd like to hear as the encore that night. Their answer – So Bad – was a song so old that Chris had almost forgotten the verses, but when the venue exploded, a lightbulb lit over the band's heads. "We had such a good time playing these tunes," the singer explains, "that we thought, ‘We should go make a record of this stuff'. It's really brought us back as a band, musically and interpersonally."
The songs on If The River Was Whiskey are different vintages. "Some Other Man Instead and the title track, I wrote those lyrics in the last year or two," explains Chris. "But Sweetest Portion, I wrote that song when I was 19. I'd run away from home, and when I got back, my friends were really upset and there was a rumor going around that I had died. So I wrote that song – and I'm not sure if I've ever written a better one since."
The material might be a quarter-century in the making, but If The River Was Whiskey took just three days to record when the four members convened last summer in New York. The original plan was to get together at Aaron's His House Studios in Manhattan and work up some demos – no pressure – before heading upstate to a boutique analogue facility and start tracking in earnest. "We didn't expect to make a record," smiles Eric. "We were just going to make a demo and play at the Rockwood. And then, lo and behold..."
Instead, without the pressure of the red light, the sessions began to unfold with an effortless magic. "We just kinda winged it, man," says Mark. "This album sounds exactly the same as it does onstage, because we recorded it live, which is the way it should be done. There's no overdubs. Anybody that tried to do an overdub was gonna get whacked!"
"We really kinda fooled ourselves and tricked ourselves, and I think that's one of the reasons why it sounds so fresh," picks up Aaron. "Because there was absolutely no pressure on us of any kind. We just hit a moment. Everything came together and we got this great record. Usually, the best things happen when you're not trying... and that's what happened here."
The band quickly realized the supposed rough-cuts captured by engineering ace Roman Klun couldn't be topped. "By the third day," reflects Chris, "we'd recorded all ten of the demos. We went out to dinner that night, we were all having a cocktail, and someone was like, ‘Gentlemen, I believe our demo is a record'. And we all just laughed."
Take a spin of If The River Was Whiskey and you'd have to agree: they aced it. The Spin Doctors might have given you the soundtrack to the best nights of the '90s, but with this new album, they've rediscovered a strand of their musical DNA that melds perfectly with the hits you know and love. "It's been so refreshing to go back to this material," says Aaron. "It's just brought everything that's good about the band out again. I can honestly say that we're playing better than ever right now, and I think a lot of that is because of the material on this record: it's just really opened things up. Some bands, you go and see them 25 years later and they're up there going through the motions. But to me, we sound better than ever. We sound world-class now, I think."
"We play about four or five tunes a night from this new album and they all work," says Eric. "It just feels seamless, like any of the new tunes can sit with any one of the Kryptonite songs. And the band is just playing amazing now. It's a pleasure to play with people that you've been playing with so long... and everybody's still breathing!"
Likewise, when If The River Was Whiskey arrives on April 30th it'll be a pleasure to toast the return of the Spin Doctors, and a new album set to score new fans while making the hardcore love them more than ever. "I don't care about sales, man," states Chris, honestly. "I mean, it'd be awesome if it sold millions of copies, but honest to God, I just want to keep making a living playing music. We get up onstage and we turn it on, and sing and play our hearts out. And that's all I've ever wanted to do: just make real music, give people something from my heart."
More about Spin Doctors:
When top-class musicianship and great songwriting meet, the result can help to define an era. Such was the case with Spin Doctors' ‘Pocket Full Of Kryptonite', one of the biggest smashes of the 1990s, selling over 10 million copies worldwide. Featuring hit after hit, from ‘Two Princes' to ‘Little Miss Can't Be Wrong' and more, the original album reached #3 on Billboard's Top 200 Album Chart, made the magazine's Top 100 list of the Best-Selling Albums of The Decade, hit #2 in the UK and #1 in Australia and New Zealand, was certified 3x Platinum in Canada, Gold in Germany, France, Holland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Singapore, and cemented the group's debut as an international phenomenon. In fact, ‘Two Princes' was the most-played rock song in the world in 1993, and was recently certified by BMI with 3 million international radio plays (‘Little Miss' is at the 2 Million mark.)
As a live band, the core members of Spin Doctors are among the best in the business, a fact often overshadowed by their commercial success, but arguably more important than ever. Following 2011 the release of ‘Pocket Full of Kryptonite: 20th Anniversary Edition', Spin Doctors hit the road to do what they do best: perform great pop/rock and blues songs for live audiences. Like their H.O.R.D.E. allies Phish, Blues Traveler, Allman Brothers and more, and like The Black Crowes, Counting Crows and other respected contemporaries, Spin Doctors are a reminder that hits and chops needn't be mutually exclusive. The wildly favorable audience reaction to their ‘Kryptonite' tour helped paved the way for ‘If The River Was Whiskey'.
‘If The River Was Whiskey' was produced by Spin Doctors. All songs written by Spin Doctors (Shogun Songs Inc./ BMI) except "Some Other Man Instead" Written by Spin Doctors, Arne Hovda, (Trak One Music/BMI) Erik Norvald Røe (Tono)