D. Charles Speer & the Helix, Leaving the Commonwealth

Amelia Raitt

By Amelia Raitt

on 04.11.11 in Reviews

Leaving the Commonwealth

D. Charles Speer & the Helix
A bulletproof, convincing case for using the term “alt-country” again

While experimental music fans are more familiar with the free-form freakouts of David Shuford's No Neck Blues Band than his work as D. Charles Speer, the latter is a thrilling look at his roots-rock side; a bulletproof, convincing case for using the term "alt-country" again. That's especially true on his third LP alongside the Helix: Leaving the Commonwealth, a barroom brawl that sets Speer's Dirty South drawl against a shifty scene of saloon pianos, rail-jumping slide guitar riffs, and heartland hooks that'll have you reaching for the nearest bottle of bourbon and screaming "yee haw!"— free of irony, mind you — in no time at all. "Cumberland" even offers a loose connection to Shuford's improv roots by stretching its boot-scooting legs past the seven-minute mark.