I've followed my cold heart all year long, searching not for a dark hole in the ground or a greasy place to rest my tired bones, bur rather for the warm house filled with friends and enemies, neighbors and strangers. It's true, brothers and sisters.
This Saturday, none shall deter the songs and rhythms of the musicians determined to stand with love and devotion, despite the coming maelstrom and fury that lies ahead. That's right, the fourth annual Holy City Cold Heart Revival — a roots music jamboree organized by Charleston songwriter Lindsay Holler — promises to be a memorable showcase of American roots music, with a variety of locals and visitor handling alt-country, folk, pop, and country styles. The Revival might just be the most joyous occasion of the year — a gathering under the gray-black rafters and neon signs, where more than a few bruised hearts can swell with glee.
At the top of the bill is Paducah, Ky.-based trio The Dirt Daubers, a new mountain-music band fronted by Col. J.D. Wilkes, singer of punkish rock quartet The Legendary Shack*Shakers. Wilkes sings and plays clawhammer-style banjo. His wife, Jessica, plays mandolin, tenor banjo, and tenor guitar. Layne Hendrickson, a longtime friend and blacksmith, handles a homemade gutbucket (a one-string washtub bass).
The Daubers first came about last year after Wilkes finished directing, scoring, and performing a short-film documentary about Southern culture and music titled Seven Signs. When the film was accepted into London's Raindance Film Festival last fall, festival organizers invited Wilkes to do a live musical performance. The Shakers were unavailable, so he and his wife threw a quick set together.
"We came over and just kind of jammed on some music that we'd been casually playing in the living room," says Wilkes. "It was just an impromptu thing. They flew us over, wined and dined us, and it was crazy. It was like, right off the bat, all of this success."
With his usual rock band, Wilkes is best known for his wild-eyed, on-stage charisma, harp-blowin', and twangy singing voice. Little did his fans know that he'd been playing banjo since the earliest Shack*Shakers days.
"I play more of an up-picking way ... it's called a Kentucky two-finger style. It's kind of like a parlor style. I try to make it sound as hillbilly as possible with all those rolls. It's more of like a simple Scruggs style, but very, very much dumbed-down. I got into the clawhammer style, because I thought it was more driving."
While the Shack*Shakers were on break, the Wilkes couple worked on some old-time standards and original songs (some of which are amusingly devilish), arranged some harmonies, tightened up, and started gigging out.
"What started as a lark turned into a way for us to continue touring and try out new things within a new style of music," J.D. says. "We're not wantin' to be true bluegrass. We're not wantin' to be punk or speedgrass or anything. It's a bit art-damaged but it's not to the point where it might alienate your grandpa. I think everyone could enjoy the band, no matter the age."
Amen to that, young man. Hallelujah, too.
The fourth annual Holy City Cold Heart Revival kicks off on the Pour House deck at 5 p.m. with The Royal Tinfoil, Rachel Kate Gillon, and Sadler Vaden (of Leslie). On the main stage it's (in order) Kentucky Shoes, The InLaws, Bill Carson & Friends, Lindsay Holler's Western Polaroids, and The Dirt Daubers.