D. Charles Speer & the Helix came together through a shared love of musical interplay that moves the mind and body. Born from the obsessions and predilections of David Charles Shuford, strains of glassine cruelty, broken glasses and ruptured knees mixed with memories of Chet Atkins lullabies and ZZ Top vids to generate a songcraft steeped in tradition but themed for the burned. A practicing multi-instrumentalist in various New York City improvisational ensembles for the last 15 plus years, Shuford began to feel the pull of the pen soon after the last proposed apocalypse. He began writing and recording music in the style of interweaved rhythms and basic harmonic shapes associated with the music of the 20th century South. Drawing from a deep well of sources and influences, from Memphis string band blasters and Georgia soul merchants to Texas and California psych, to Cajun and country steel strings singing, anything with gusto to spare was fodder for the ear. Through a cutting lyrical style displaying vivid imagery and abject scenarios as well as a compositional sense that maintains a personal and singular sound, Speer manifests a modernist extension of some of America's most enthralling sounds.
The Helix features some of the hottest players in this or any other town, including Hans Chew on keys and Marc Orleans on pedal steel and guitar; they have both been members of the band since its earliest incarnations in 2006. Ted Robinson moved to town in early 2009 and immediately installed himself as a bad ass on the rhythm scene. Steven McGuirl has been a long term compatriot and supporter of the band and we are super pleased to have him join us in our frolics since spring of 2010. These cats have been honing their craft individually and in tandem for many a moon and the sweat, grime, and vibes shine through.
Leaving the Commonwealth is the 3rd full length LP by D. Charles Speer & the Helix and features their most accomplished playing and songwriting yet, setting a high watermark for narrative honky tonk rock at this late date. Inspired by swaggering, outrageous and engaging sonic tales like Cowboy Jack Clement's "Miller's Cave", this album features byzantine songs which flow surprisingly quickly and with natural grace. The album opener "Razorbacked" emits noirish cinematic imagery and twists which are matched with music sparked from a wasted mid 70s cassette from Peaches or Turtles. Numerous musical luminaries, including Freddie King and Clifton Chenier, are invoked and celebrated in song. Other tracks like "Cumberland" and "Battle of the Wilderness" are historically detailed and geographically specific chronicles. Dense tones flow from all corners, with guitar sounds reminiscent of Fripp or Manzanera on one end and the pedal steel tones of Emmons and Mooney on another. Beautifully recorded by Jason LaFarge of Seizures Palace in the urban environs of Brooklyn, this album is southern by lyrical setting, country by instrumental arrangement, rocking through its rhythmic heft and most certainly contemporary in attitude.