Wednesday, June 8, 2011

WITCH MOUNTAIN - South of Salem CD review

WITCH MOUNTAIN - South of Salem CD
Mountastic Records
Genre: Stoner Rock
Rating: 4/5

This is fairly interesting because WITCH MOUNTAIN reminds me of HEART if had they just tuned everything down a bit. Now if that's too far in the past for the likes of you then maybe a more doomed out version of another fine Northwest band The DTs fronted by the greatest modern soul singer in a generation, Diana Young-Blanchard. But that wasn't always the case since this Portland, Oregon band was once a Stoner Rock three piece power trio (sans female vocals) who in 2001 released a full length Come the Mountain on Rage of Achilles Records. Back then their guitarist Rob Wrong was the vocalist and as we all know the Stoner Rock fad died out in 2000. Since WITCH MOUNTAIN was a few years late plus a record label short they put away their instruments and went back to their day jobs until they hooked up with a superb vocalist Uta Plotkin in 2009.

It's Uta Plotkin, who could be one of these guy's daughters by the look of her, which turns this average sounding stoner rock band into a better than average sounding stoner rock band with an amazing white soul singing siren behind the microphone. Uta obviously takes her cues from the Janis Joplin/Big Mama Thorton school of blues and soul much like Diana Young-Blanchard does with the DTs. But this is Doom and not Garage Rock, being that the only difference is the speed and stoner rock is simply downtuned blues rock. So the idea of having a white girl soul & blues vocalist fronting a stoner rock band is not an incredible stretch of the imagination unless you're an indie rocker. The sad thing about this release is that it's a pay whatever the hell you want digital download on their Bandcamp site. If you're smart you'll get it in its special limited edition vinyl version with pretty cool looking artwork by underground artist SKINNER, colors by Marvel Comics’ Jason Lewis, and a redesigned logo by Mark McCormick.

Getting back to the music as far as the band goes it's all well played. Bassist Dave Hoopaugh is definitely the linchpin of WITCH MOUNTAIN laying down some thunderous lines. Rob Wrong is obviously a graduate from the school of Tony Iommi riffs but has a talented refrain when it comes to his bluesy fuzzed-out solos. Most youngsters will play all over a song but Wrong is a guitar veteran who knows a little goes a long way. Nate Carson is another perfectionist when it comes to his drum skills on here. He's a well controlled 70's styled percussionist instead of simply playing drums. Obviously all three of these musicians know their blues and jazz composition well. Uta Plotkin is no slouch herself when it comes to voice craft and enhancing the song's structure be it with a sultry whisper or a siren's wail. Now your unintelligent indie rock scribe will listen to South of Salem and go "cool it's like Janis Joplin fronting Sabbath." Sure that's the easy way out just like saying "oh look it's a girl fronting a band", but to me that's an insult. After repeated listenings to this one I must say it's decent easy on the ears and mind bluesy doom. What they come out with next is gonna be the real surprise.



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