By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Though they’ve only been around for a few short years, Nashville-based quartet All Them Witches has quickly established a name for itself as one of the more creative heavy rock bands to emerge in the U.S. of late. Initially a partnership between guitarist Ben McLeod and drummer Robby Staebler, the group added singer/multi-instrumentalist Michael Parks, Jr and Staebler’s longtime friend Allan Van Cleave on Fender Rhodes electric piano shortly before recording their 2012 debut Our Mother Electricity.
A swampy, fuzzed-out trip into blues-drenched psychedelia, the album was picked up by German imprint Elektrohasch Schallplatten and quickly earned the band rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic. Exhibiting a nuanced songwriting touch that embraced hazy atmospherics and epic, slow-building tension, All Them Witches echoed ’70s greats (Zeppelin, the Doors, iconic southern rockers the Allman Brothers and the delta hoodoo of Dr. John’s debut Gris Gris) and modern stoner rock (Queens of the Stone Age, Dead Meadow) while crafting a wholly original style.
Extensive touring and the band’s stunning sophomore self-released effort Lightning at the Door further spread word of the quartet’s unique musical alchemy. Onstage, All Them Witches showed they could dismantle and reassemble their songs dramatically with fearless improvisational excursion that frequently veered into cover tunes and entirely new, spontaneously created compositions.
For the band’s 2015 effort and first for Nashville-based label New West, the foursome decamped to an isolated mountain cabin near the Eastern Tennessee town of Pigeon Forge (home of Dolly Parton’s Appalachian amusement park Dollywood) and set up a remote studio with engineer Mikey Allred for five days of intensive recording. The resulting songs on Dying Surfer Meets His Maker earned the group another round of ecstatic reviews.
For it’s latest album, the quartet enlisted the services of noted Nashville producer Dave Cobb (who has helmed recordings by Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell and Shooter Jennings) to track Sleeping Through the War at the vintage Creative Workshop recording studio. The sessions produced some of the band’s most immediate material yet on the anthemic “Don’t Bring Me Coffee” and “Bruce Lee” while still allowing them room for extended improvisation as on the transporting epic “Internet,” a nearly ten-minute-long jam featuring wailing harp from Willie Nelson harmonica wizard Mickey Raphael.
For this return visit to San Francisco Wednesday night, ATW comes to the Mission District to headline the Chapel. The band unleashes new songs and classic tunes after a set from opening act Idle Bloom, a fellow Nashville-based alt-rock band that at times recalls the buzzing noise-pop sound of ’90s heroes the Breeders.
All Them Witches
Wednesday, May 10, 8 p.m. $15