Regardless of the stylistic ingredients poured into the Dash Rip Rock stew pot (and that would include everything between Hank Williams and Bo Diddley), what the Louisiana trio (named after Elly May’s movie-star beau on The Beverly Hillbillies) ladles out is white lightning rock’n’roll, distilled to its basic essence with the tradition-minded reliability of backwoods bootleggers. “Nothin’ fancy” covers it, but these guys can really play, so sloppiness is only the seasoning, not Dash’s stock in trade. Singer/guitarist (and onetime Louisiana State U grad student in journalism) Bill Davis, bassist Ned “Hoaky” Hickel and a procession of durable drummers have been tearing up the clubs since the mid-’80s; every year or two, they drop by a recording studio and commit some more purified musical hooch to tape. If none of their work advances the stylistic state of popular culture one inch, Dash Rip Rock never fails to boil up a hearty, spicy concoction that sticks to the ribs and fills a sinful soul.
Dash is the kind of rough-and-ready band you imagine tearing up a roadhouse somewhere in your romantic dreams of highway adventures, and Dash Rip Rock is the first fiery evidence. That album and its follow-up, Ace of Clubs, benefit from the presence of original drummer/singer/wildman Fred LeBlanc, who then departed to launch and lead Cowboy Mouth. The white-hot center of Ace of Clubs — “Money Love Time,” the vintage- sounding “Leave Me Alone (With My Bottle)” and “Johnny Ace” (great biographical lyrics set to sizzling high-speed guitar energy) — is surrounded by equally entertaining tracks in a variety of less incendiary styles: chunky power pop (“Go Home Little Girl”), acoustic country-folk (“Blue Moon at Midnight”) and herky-jerky rock-pop (“Legacy,” “Lisa”). The album would have benefited from a more clearly cut personality, but the well-written and sharply played songs make it a fine second showing.
With producer Jim Dickinson and new drummer Chris Luckette, Dash grew up and got loud and a bit raunchy on Not of This World, a smooth high-octane blend of the band’s rootsy rock-R&B-country ingredients. Whether Davis is using guitar metaphors in a lusty love song (“String You Up”), issuing crude putdowns (“Rich Little Bitch,” “Rattle Trap”) or pledging to follow a woman to the ends of the earth (in a song delicately mistitled “Bum for Egypt”), the band — augmented on some songs by a guest keyboard player — plays hot enough to light a small studio conflagration. Get that fire extinguisher out before you drop the needle.
Recorded onstage in Texas and Louisiana, Boiled Alive! draws heavily from all three LPs, adding fresh new originals, covers like “Jambalaya” and some typically uproarious Davis platter patter.
Tiger Town keeps the gas on through ravers like “Little Rita,” “True Drunk Love,” Mojo Nixon’s “All Liquored Up,” Larry Williams’ “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” and the choogling “Swamp Thing.” Dash reveals its poppier, more ambitious side in “Loosen Up Your Wig,” “Livin’ Breathin’,” “Walk on the Water” and “Shine a Light,” all of which keep the electricity on but apply it more judiciously to songs with real tunes and dynamic control. Growing up without lying down, Davis makes Tiger Town a positive stop on the Dash Rip ride.
The self-produced Get You Some of Me (Luckette’s last blast) spreads the band’s reach even further. Guest piano and pedal steel don’t seriously alter the sound of elemental Dash: Davis’ twangy singing and stinging guitar are the only notes that count. But he can certainly shift his own gears, so the taut razor-rock basics of “Life Flash” and “Shootin’ Up Signs” and the retro geo-romp of “Ridin’ Into Memphis” (co-written by Davis and LeBlanc) give way to acoustic balladry (“Houseboat”) and pop (“The Heart I Break,” “Scheme of Things”), lonesome country (“Half Kansas Moon”) and high-steppin’ rock-funk (“Get You Some of Me”). But the ratio of borrowed tunes (John Doe’s “All Day Night,” Ben Vaughn’s “Houseboat,” Danny and the Juniors’ “At the Hop,” reworked as “Let’s Go Smoke Some Pot”) suggests that supplies might be running short, and the originals don’t all stack up with the band’s best. Maybe it’s time for a breather.