Fire Moth, Oil Paintings & Gold Chains
I’ve always been a little disheartened by the state of the blues here in sweaty, grimy Houston, Texas, the town I call home. Unless you’re a serious student of the genre (or, you know, actually live here, and maybe not even then), odds are pretty good you’ve got no idea that our fair city has a long and storied blues tradition. When you think “blues,” you think Memphis, New Orleans, Chicago, maybe even Kansas City, but most likely not Houston.
Which is a damn shame, if you ask me, and I’ve long wondered why the H-town blues wasn’t better-recognized than it is. In part, I suspect (based, I’ll freely admit, on totally subjective “evidence” gleaned from a couple of decades of staring at show listings and listening to various bands) that it’s because the blues scene here has been insulated somewhat, with the musicians in it kind of operating off in their own little world. They’re not ignored, per se, but a handful of short-lived exceptions aside (see: Grandfather Child), it’s like you’re either part of that crowd or you’re part of a different scene entirely, with nothing in-between.
Which is why I’m psyched to hear Fire Moth’s debut full-length, Oil Paintings & Gold Chains, because this trio of Houston-dwellers manages to plant one foot firmly in the blues realm while the other foot scratches at the line between rootsy Americana and flat-out boozy, messy rock. They play music that’s gritty and murky and dirty around the edges, coming off at several points like early Black Keys with a hefty swallow of Gulf/bayou water instead of whatever they drink up in the Midwest.
“Still Got It” is an early highlight, a snarling, combative chunk of dangerous-sounding electrified blues, and “Girls” lives in the same neighborhood, with scraping guitars, a big-ass bass, and a dirty water-ish, bayou vibe to it. “Keep Movin On” hangs out more on the “rock” side of the fence, all fuzzed-out guitars and driving, stoner-rawk rhythms with some awesomely sharp-edged riffs poking out from beneath the dirt.
Then there’s the Zeppelinesque “The Receiver,” and the aptly-entitled “Black Water,” both of which come off like long-lost gems from the ’60s, and the latter of which has some of the meatiest, most thick-as-molasses guitars I’ve ever heard in my whole damn life. (Honest.) Things slow down a bit towards the end of the eight-song album, with “Hold On” taking a more cautionary, thoughtful tack despite being wonderfully down to the ground, and “Wicked Woman,” a slow-burning stomp that again brings to mind The Black Keys, only with a hell of a lot more soul. (Oh, and the latter has a great bit of organ playing lurking beneath the surface, if you listen close.)
Maybe I’m reading a little much into this, but after hearing these guys, The Beans, and We Were Wolves all recently, I’m hopeful that this signals a new age of H-town blues-rock, one that spans the gap between the worlds of indie-rock clubs and the old-school blues bars. Because that’s one musical trend I can totally get behind.