Providence's Alternative Source!

Black & White, Elevator Tribe, and more

You know how when you live somewhere for a long time you tend to overlook certain aspects of the place, no matter how significant? Like, for instance, many New Yorkers have never been to see the Statue of Liberty, or have never visited the top of the Empire State Building. Here in Rhode Island, we probably don't go to the beach as often as we should, even though it's right down the road. We don't go to Roomful shows as often now either, even though they are our greatest musical treasure . . .

Black & White: 45 R.P.M. (

. . . Black & White suffers from the same neglect. Not that people don't go to see them. Hell, they probably get more people seeing them on an annual basis than the total attendance of 50 local bands. Together more than 10 years, they play virtually every weekend. They may not get the marquee gigs that a few other local bands manage to land, but they play steadily and they get people dancing. And when you get people dancing, they get thirsty. You know what happens from there. Let me tell you one more thing because it's important: they make a living playing music.

Black & White has had a new CD out for almost two months. Like neglecting the Statue of Liberty, I neglected publicizing the event or even reviewing the disc. Their name is around the state so much that they've become part of the fabric of Rhode Island's pop culture. Is that bad? I don't think so. It's just that sometimes they're such a part of the fabric, like the Big Blue Bug on Thurbers Avenue, they get overlooked.

Produced and engineered by Joe Moody at Danger Multitrack in Providence, 45 R.P.M. is the band's third album, and their first in four years. Recorded over a two-year period, the disc reflects the band's utter devotion to R&B, blues, and early rock. Like their idols -- the Fabulous Thunderbirds, the Paladins, and Chuck Berry -- they revere the roots of rock without reverting too obviously to a vintage sound. Co-writers Don DiMuccio (drums) and Mark Wagner (singer-guitarist) tag-team on five of the disc's eight tracks, resulting in a tight, original, and rollicking combination of gutsy old school rhythms and contemporary sensibility. The studio sound -- especially on the opening "Mood to Get Rude" and on the chugging, party-hearty "Catrina" -- is all crystal clean without being sterile.

But the best thing about 45 R.P.M. is that it doesn't adhere too closely to the rock-blues-R&B templates already set forth by so many great bands around town. When you're competing with the likes of Roomful, the Nakeds, and Young Neal, et. at, you're throwing up obstacles for yourself even before you get started. On songs like the slinky "Rhumba King," the neo-rockabilly title cut, and the oh-so-slightly Bakersfield sound of "The Illicit Tale of Jimmy D.," Black & White proves its versatility is an asset. And they're not afraid to follow their own divergent paths.

So don't fall victim to the same neglectful behavior I've been guilty of in this case. Go check out Black & White. Either buy this terrific disc, or see them at one of their many appearances in and around the state. And don't be surprised if they make you just a little thirsty.

Elevator Tribe: New Day of Darkness (Dream Authority Music)

If you've been around Providence for more than a few years, you may remember bands like Parallel 5th (mid-'80s), Tyger Tyger (1986-91), and the Sparrows (1992). One thing those bands had in common was drummer John Stout, a longtime Providence scenester who not-so-recently transferred himself and his bag o' skills to the mountainous wilds of Vermont. Before heading north, Stout also had a song called "Rhode Island," performed with none other than Congressman Ed Beard, featured on the Living Room-sponsored compilation City History.

Today, Stout heads up Elevator Tribe, a band influenced by mid-'70s Miles Davis, 13th Floor Elevators and, deeper, the Red Crayola. Recorded on the top floor of Stout's silo-shaped home studio, many of the songs are accessibly vintage-psychedelic rock, full of fuzzed-out guitars and textured, elongated arrangements. Singer Christine Jacobson layers her own Mazzy Star-ish, strung-out vocals over Stout's low-key mix. Tunes like "Watery Grave" and the opening "Christine's Dream" waft dream-like into the air -- catch them if you can.

There are a few problem areas. In many instances the instrumentation feels tentative. While Stout's drumming is concise, his bass playing lacks confidence. And that's unfortunate, because many of Stout's tunes don't feature much prominent guitar riffing, which means there's lots of space for his rhythm section. It's a space he can't fill adequately. He is a victim of his own diabolical devices in that silo studio of his.

Still, there's lots of good stuff here and he should be proud of his accomplishment. Elements of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd on "Silo House" and on the elastic title track give the record some prominent touchstones, which is important when you're delving so thoroughly into psychedelia. Way to go, John.

Jeff Keithline: Jeff Now (Wigwax Records)

Here's a little background on Jeff Keithline. His online bio says that as a member of major label recording artists Silverado back in the late '70s, he appeared with guys like Tom Waits, Canned Heat, Tower of Power, Dave Mason, and James Cotton. He's also recorded with Kevin Salem, producer Richie Cordell, and fusioneer Larry Young, among others. In 1990, he made a record called Lucky Guy that met with some indie underground acclaim, then he went into semi-retirement to raise a family. That retirement saw him move from Boston to Providence. He comes out of retirement with his first disc in more than 10 years, Jeff Now.

Jeff Now is a new collection of songs that takes his many influences, from '60s pop to roots to funk to fusion, and melds them into a single exuberant musical statement. "Manchester Girls" recalls Marshall Crenshaw with a bit more keyboards instead of power pop guitar. "Friday Moved" has a swinging sultriness courtesy of Chris Lannon's guitar licks and Keithline's pulsating bass. "We Went Marching" has a . . . er, marching, Johnny Cash-style roots orientation, while the neo-garage riffs (with Joe Greico's sweet Vox organ lines) of "When I Was Cool" rocks pretty well as it showcases Keithline's own unique humor. The artist is handicapped by his vocal limitations; he sing/speaks a la Lou Reed on many of the tracks. He'd be better served by a real singer, because much of the material here deserves quality vocal treatments.

Keithline's CD is available from or by contacting him directly at for hand delivery.

WANDERING EYE. Finally got my clutches on a copy of the Blackstone Valley Crew's debut disc (thanks, Glitz!), Woonsocket. The fact is da boyz (and girl) rock pretty good up north. Since making the disc as a quartet, the band has become a virtual tribe -- seven mad ones lookin' to rip shit up. Yeah, it's rap and rock, but it's serious stuff, with lots of heavy riffs, distortion, and decent rhyming. Can't wait to hear the band's new album. Let's talk more about it when it happens. Check out for more info.

E-mail me with your music news, please, at, and, yeah, happy holidays.

Issue Date: December 21 - 27, 2001