Sign up for newsletter
 

The Del-Lords are back

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 – The Del-Lords are back.

The New York City rootsy/garage rock band is returning to action with a new disc, "Elvis Club," in May.

"We didn't start with any agenda, other than to make a great record," Scott Kempner said of the decision following a two-decade layoff. The CD is the band's first new album since 1990 and will be out May 14 on GB Music through RED Distribution.

The band is three-quarters of the original: singer-guitarist Kempner and fellow founding members Eric Ambel (guitar and vocals) and Frank Funaro (drums) joined by new bassist Michael DuClos.

Ambel, who in the '90s and '00s built up his frontman credentials as leader of Roscoe's Gang and member of roots-rock all-stars the Yayhoos, steps up to the mike to deliver persuasive lead vocals on a trio of tunes: Me and the Lord Blues, Flying and Neil Young's Southern Pacific.

"Elvis Club confirms to me what I always felt the band could do," said Ambel. "To me, it's a different kind of record for us, in that there isn't so much of a theme to it as a feel, a real band feel. I didn't really think of it as unfinished business; it was more like 'Here's what we can do now."

Kempner (who'd first made his mark as "Top Ten" of '70s punk pioneers the Dictators), Ambel (a founding member of Joan Jett's Blackhearts) and Funaro, along with original bassist Manny Caiati, first joined forces in the early '80s. Between 1984 and 1990, the band released four studio albums - "Frontier Days," "Johnny Comes Marching Home," "Based on a True Story" and "Lovers Who Wander."

Since then, Kempner went the solo route and released two discs, played reunion gigs with the Dictator and collaborated extensively with fellow Bronx native Dion (who co-wrote the poignant Elvis Club track Everyday with Kempner). Ambel accumulated extensive credentials as a solo artist and member of the Yayhoos, as well as hired-gun guitarist (for Steve Earle, among others), producer (for the Bottle Rockets, Nils Lofgren) and proprietor of the East Village nightspot the Lakeside Lounge. Funaro continued to ply his percussive trade with Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven, and joined forces with Kempner and Dion in the short-lived Little Kings.

The band's reunion came about unexpectedly, after a Spanish promoter/superfan's offer to book a Del-Lords tour prompted the original quartet to reform for a string of live dates in Spain, as well as some low-key gigs at the Lakeside Lounge, for which the band was pseudonymously billed as "Elvis Club."

Deciding that it would be nice to have some new material to play on stage, they worked up some new tunes, which they recorded for the limited-edition tour EP "Under Construction." The musical results stoked the musicians' interest in continuing their rekindled collaboration on a longer-term basis. Although founding bassist Caiati, now a family-law attorney working with at-risk children, was unable to continue his participation after the Spanish tour due to his other commitments, Kempner, Ambel and Funaro decided to forge ahead with an album of new material.

The making of "Elvis Club" - whose title is a reference to a favorite anecdote from the band's early days, in which a passing prostitute bestowed the eponymous sobriquet upon the then-pompadoured combo - was a substantially different experience from the band's prior recording projects. With Ambel producing the band for the first time, and the sessions taking place at his Brooklyn studio Cowboy Technical Services, the band was able to record at its own pace.

"That was a big departure from every record we've made in the past," Ambel said. "Playing with the guys felt effortless and natural, and it was fantastic to build this thing ourselves, from the ground up. We made the record we wanted to make, based on our own enjoyment. That's as good as it gets for me."

"Working with Eric as producer really opened up the musical palette," Kempner said. "He was never at a loss for ideas, and he's quickly inside the music and hears everything from all angles. He can take ideas, including my own, digest the intent, and more often than not, come up with a tweaked version of the idea that's better than the one suggested. He also knows his way around the lunch options in the neighborhood, which is a crucial contribution, and has the best coffee of any studio I've ever worked in.

"On top of that," Kempner said, "Eric's playing has really expanded. Other than Everyday, he plays all the leads on the record. That in itself was a big sea change for us, but he kept coming up with ideas and I loved every one of them. The same was true with Frank; his playing has grown tall and strong and busted a hole in our ceiling."

With no permanent fourth member at the time, the band began cutting tracks with guest bassists, namely ex-Suicide Commandos/Beat Rodeo vet Steve Almaas, Ambel's Yayhoos bandmate Keith Christopher, and Ron Sexsmith/Ani DiFranco sideman Jason Mercer. Eventually, it became clear that DuClos, who came on board in the latter stages of recording, was the man for the job.

"He just fit in instantly," Kempner said of DuClos, who played alongside Funaro in Cracker. "A great guy, a great player, a total wise-ass, and the only man to have played with both Pete Townshend and Buddy Hackett."

"We're just going to get out there and take it to the people, as they say," Kempner said, adding, "We're doing this now for no other reason other than that we all want to, and that alone is a huge change. Back in the '80s, everything in our lives depended on it, and with that came a lot of pressure. But now, we have no obligations, and we're no longer on the hamster wheel of record/tour/record/tour etc. The future is wide open at this point. We will just keep pushing on, with no due dates and no deadlines, just making it up as we go along."

""I always knew how lucky I was to have a band this good that related to my songs, and this time that feeling was more pronounced than ever," Kempner said. "Now I can take a step back and just marvel at how great Eric and Frank, and now Duke, are. They are good enough to play with absolutely anyone, but they're still happy to play my songs. That really is an honor. But don't tell them that, because they'll want more money."

More news for The Del-Lords

CD reviews for The Del-Lords

Elvis Club CD review - Elvis Club
For its first album in 20 years, the Del-Lords haven't so much resurrected the band's original sound as they have taken all their experience since then and processed it through a time machine blender, resulting in a new batch of songs that are as powerful and immediate as anything from their heyday without sounding dated in the least. Founding members Scott Kempner, Eric Ambel and Frank Funaro are all along for the ride, which is one of gutsy roots-rocking fervor combined with a sense of »»»
Editorial: Walking the talk – When names like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Waylon and the Hag are invoked, you're talking hard core country. These are the touchstones of country , the guys who made country music what it was and still is (or maybe can be). When these folks would sing about being down-and-out and the rough-and-tumble, they knew of what they were singing about. Fast forward a few years to the country singers of today. »»»
Concert Review: Moakler does it his way – Steve Moakler told the good-sized crowd that he had played just about every college there is in the area. Now, that would be quite a lot and probably a bit hyperbolic. But the point is he's trying to do it his way. Without the benefits of commercial radio play or a label behind him, Moakler has benefitted from extraterrestrial radio playing his... »»»
Concert Review: Giddens captivates, engages – About the only thing wrong that Rhiannon Giddens did was play a too small 900-plus seat venue that sold out months in advance. Aside from that misstep of not allowing in even more of her fans, Giddens was captivating, engaging and certainly not afraid to continue as potent musical force, although she was far more overtly political.... »»»
Subscribe to Country News Digest Country News Digest      Follow Country Standard Time on twitter CST      Visit Country Standard Time on Facebook CST

Elsewhere in the news

Currently at the CST blogs

Lane assumes mantle of "Highway Queen" For most artists, eight years is a fair amount of time in their careers. For Nikki Lane, eight years represents the entirety of her recorded history, and she's filled that relatively short time span with a highlight reel of impressive accomplishments, not the least of which would be actually... »»»
The Avett Brothers come home to MerleFest For The Avett Brothers, MerleFest is a coming home of sorts. This year's edition of the MerleFest "traditional-plus" music festival in Wilkesboro, N.C., the event's 30th anniversary, a milestone sure to be marked by many different special appearances and commemorations during the festival's four-day run, is no exception.... »»»
Gibson Brothers rise up from "In the Ground" There's no more solid live bluegrass show than the Gibson Brothers. They play with great technical skill and crispness. Their harmonies are just what a brother act should be: sweet, true and never forced. Brothers Leigh and Eric Gibson surround themselves... »»»
The Devil Makes Three examine salvation, sin For nearly a decade and a half, The Devil Makes Three has concocted an amazing blend of bluegrass, folk, country, blues, rockabilly and whatever happens to bubble to the surface, and applied it liberally to their songwriting ethic.... »»»
For Shires, home is where the family lies Mercy Rose Isbell recently celebrated her first birthday and, ironically, the album she helped inspire has just been released. Synchronicity is a beautiful thing. Mercy Rose is, of course, the daughter of singer/songwriters Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires, two of the most gifted Americana artists working today... ... »»»
The Earls of Leicester rattle and roar Something old is new again. The Earls of Leicester, fresh from their first release in late 2014 and the IBMA Entertainer of the Year Award for 2015, followed that remarkable success with "Rattle and Roar."... »»»
Watkins does all the right things on "Young in All the Wrong Ways" In the nine years since Nickel Creek declared itself on indefinite hiatus, violinist/vocalist Sara Watkins has been relentlessly busy. She discovered a new pathway for her harmonic gifts with Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O'Donovan in the vocal trio I'm With Her.... »»»
Postcard Town CD review - Postcard Town
Formed in 2014 in the far reaches of Sheridan, Wyo., a place well off the map as far as connectivity with the bigger marketplace is concerned, The Two Tracks make a sound that ought to be instantly engaging to anyone appreciative of a true down home delivery. Consequently, the band's sophomore offering, "Postcard Town," brings them as close to the mainstream as one might imagine. »»»
Transient Lullaby CD review - Transient Lullaby
Being part of Steve Earle's backing band, The Dukes, would seem to some a baptism of fire. Yes, The Mastersons - specifically, the husband and wife team of Chris Masterson and Eleanor Whitmore - not only survived but thrived, spinning off a solo career that's resulted in three excellent albums. "Transient Lullaby" affirms the promise shown early on, making them an obvious heir apparent to Gram and Emmylou, Johnny and June, Porter and Dolly. »»»
Road Less Traveled CD review - Road Less Traveled
A last name like Petite suggests a double entendre, not to mention a punch line for all kinds of cheap jokes. So imagine the surprise that comes with the first discovery of Sara Petite's songs and singing. Big, bold and brassy, she comes across like an artist with a timeless resume, a whirlwind of musical expression who creates an ageless sound prepped by cool and confidence.  »»»
Big Bad Luv CD review - Big Bad Luv
John Moreland sings songs about love, mostly desperate love - like the variety sung of during The Band-esque "Love is Not an Answer" - on "Big Bad Luv." Via the latter, he confesses, "I don't need an answer/I need you." Yes, he wants love, but he needs connection. »»»
God's Problem Child CD review - God's Problem Child
One thing is for certain, Willie Nelson is still not dead. In fact, he may be more alive than ever considering the amount of work he is churning out these days. "God's Problem Child" is Nelson's 12th release in the last 5 years, and thankfully, it does not appear that he will be slowing down any time soon. »»»
50 Years of Blonde on Blonde CD review - 50 Years of Blonde on Blonde
Credit Old Crow Medicine Show for tackling "Blonde On Blonde," one of the most iconic albums of all time - and doing so live in concert no less. Given that this marks the 50th anniversary of the greatest achievement of Dylan's early career - and the fact that Old Crow Medicine Show have been touted as faithful purveyors of true Americana tradition - the combination does make sense in theory. »»»
Sidelong CD review - Sidelong
Although it's been largely overshadowed by her more prevalent role as a torch singing chanteuse, k.d. lang began her career with a rootsy country band known as the Reclines, which featured lang's madcap square dancing, Patsy Cline-inflected vocals and a particularly pointed sense of both gravity and comedy set to a floor-stomping soundtrack. »»»
Wrote a Song for Everyone CD review - Wrote a Song for Everyone
Considering that Creedence Clearwater Revival's back catalogue contains some of the most beloved and iconic music of the rock era, and John Fogerty himself - the man who made all those great songs great - will be dueting with you, an artist has to feel like he's got two strikes against him when he sets out to contribute to a cover album tribute to Creedence Clearwater Revival and John Fogerty. »»»