Dead Rock West

Live Review | The Greystones, Sheffield | Review by Allan Wilkinson

The Backroom of the Greystones pub on the outskirts of Sheffield once again played host to another night of great music, tonight MC’d by both Alex Buchanan and Simon Hughes, two local music enthusiasts who collectively make up Boo Hoo Music Promotions.  This first headliner tour of the UK for Californian band Dead Rock West was marred slightly by an unfortunate and completely unexpected bout of illness, which has put Frank Lee Drennen out of the picture for a few days, forcing the band to cancel at least one show and press upon Frank’s musical partner some additional pressure in order to keep things going and keep things together.  Cindy Wasserman went on tonight to demonstrate her resilience, abiding by the old theatrical rule that the show must go on.  With sheer professionalism and bundles of raw talent, Cindy fronted her band, which was obviously missing one of its integral ingredients, but managed to fill the cracks, gulfs and chasms with some remarkable musicianship.  The band settled themselves into the set with a comfortable selection from Dead Rock West’s debut album Honey and Salt, including “Rocket From the Crypt”, “Don’t Worry About Me”, “Desert Rose” and “All I Know”, before showcasing some of the songs from their stunning follow up Bright Morning Stars due out in April.  The new album’s rootsy surveillance of source material such as Blind Willie Johnson’s “God Don’t Ever Change”, the Staples Singers’ “This May Be the Last Time” and the traditional “Ain’t No Grave”, transferred well into live performance, with Cindy Wasserman on particularly good form.  One or two of the songs that would normally appear in the set were left out for obvious reasons such as the beautiful Wings of Angels, a Wasserman/Drennen close harmony song and Frank’s take on the Jesus and Mary Chains’ “God Help Me”.  Incidentally, Frank was by this time upstairs in his sick bed, having just returned from one of Sheffield’s busy hospitals.  One can only assume those words were going through his head as he listened to his band playing without him downstairs.  Joining Cindy were Jack Reynolds on bass, Charlie Mcree on drums and Christopher Hoffee on both electric guitar and National Steel, all chipping in harmonies where presumably Drennen’s would normally go.  Whilst Cindy performed all the songs from the band’s repertoire that wouldn’t miss Drennen’s input too drastically, such as Peter Case’s gorgeous “Beyond the Blues”, there was the slight suspicion that much of the repertoire available to the band was running out towards the end, hence treating the audience to two well-chosen covers to end the night, the Velvet Underground’s “Baby Be Good” and the Gun Club’s “Fire of Love”, both affording the band the opportunity to rock out for the climax of what turned out to be a great night.  Earlier in the evening, local five-piece band Dave Woodcock and the Dead Comedians provided an energetic set of raw Americana, setting the standard for the evening.  With a band consisting of Chris Saunders, whose amazing photographs adorn the walls of the Backroom, on guitar, Richard Hunter on drums, Chris Murphy on piano and guitar and Lee Bradley on bass, Dave Woodcock led his band with some familiar tunes including “Firewater” and “City Lights”, dedicated to Charlie’s Chaplin and Bukowski, as well as some brand new material including “Should I Laugh Now, Or Should I Wait Until It Gets Funny”.  All in all, a pretty good night.