By: Lisa Marie Basille
Imagine knocking about a dusty honky tonk tavern with a bottle of whiskey in hand, sometime in the 1920s. Imagine the band onstage, their drunken country music floating around the room. Unlike a lot of bands that attempt to unsuccessfully and tackily conjure the sounds of the past, The Galt Line blends modernity with a serious hats-off to roots music.
Perhaps the coolest thing about this Brooklyn duo, comprised of Willie Gammell (guitar) and Blythe Crawford (vocals, ukulele), is their humble attitudes. Writing about their experiences at bars that weren't particularly bursting with audience members, they're excited anyway to play, to be heard and to have a good time.
"You've got to get up and dance and scream and, I don't know... punch someone. So we get up there and shout and beat our instruments while the crowd quietly bobs their heads and looks at their shoes," Crawford says.
With their appropriate mantra, "The Galt Line is less interested in moving people and more interested in getting people moving," they certainly (perhaps unknowingly) have the aptitude to do both. And they're a new effort, initiated in April 2008 after Crawford received a ukelele as retribution for working on Uke Jackson’s musical Sex! Drugs! And Ukuleles!
From there, she wrote solid songs that Gammell brings a real life to with his guitar-driven style, passionate and bluesy. His solos show a real knowledge of the instrument and of the genre, somewhere between the intricate threads of rockabilly, blues, old country and New Orleans-esque swing and jazz. Crawford's got the voice for it all, too, blending the croon of old-timers Ben Selvin and Jimmie Rodgers with the distant haunt of Ella Fitzgerald and the contemporary touch of Fiona Apple's vibrato.
In "The Worm," (you can hear this one live on their MySpace), the two manage to work up the bluesiness of Ray Charles' “Hit The Road, Jack.” And with lyrics like, "I just want to go outside/but I'm stuck staying on/Oh some days you just can't win oh lord/Some days you just can't win," Southern heartache sneaks up in an antiquated way.
Their sound clearly comes from their influences: "We both dig the folk/punk combo," Crawford says, citing music off the entire spectrum including Flogging Molly, Django Reinhardt and folks from the old Sun Records label.
Yes, Crawford and Gammell have a way of conjuring the ghosts of music past, but they're not a copycat duo. They've got a lot to offer, and a lot of obvious musical knowledge under their belt. Really, order a Johnny Walker of your choice and visit them at the many joints they'll be playing in the next few months — they deserve your time.