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: Gibson Brothers join "Brotherhood" in style – The idea of releasing "Brotherhood" by veteran bluegrass band The Gibson Brothers was a natural. The disc paid tribute to a long list of brother acts including the Everlys and lesser known acts like the York Brothers and the Four Brothers. While the younger Gibson, Leigh, sure gave Eric a ton of grief throughout the show - all in jest, of... »»»
Concert Review: Moorer, Gauthier pull for each other – In their own right, Allison Moorer and Mary Gauthier did not really need the other because each is most capable of headlining. But in one of those geniuses of booking, fans had the chance to see the two in a most enjoyable and alternative setting - a good, old-fashioned guitar pull. That meant that the two were seated in comfortable chairs on... »»»
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

Nathan Stanley carries on family tradition Young bluegrass artist Nathan Stanley doesn't fall far from the branches of the family tree; he honors the legacy of his grandfather, Dr. Ralph Stanley, by delivering straight ahead traditional bluegrass music, interpreting old classics that have shaped him and his music. At the same time, young Stanley is an original, refusing to sing the old songs in the ways they've been performed before. "If it's been done," he says, "I don't think I'll do it that way."... »»»
Gibson Brothers join the "Brotherhood" Eric Gibson, the elder (by less than a year) of the award winning, New York-born Gibson Brothers says that the new Rounder release by he and brother Leigh, "Brotherhood," was more than a decade in the making. "It seemed like every time we'd get ready to do a new record, we'd have a batch of new songs that we felt we needed to get out there...but (Leigh) really pushed me on this... »»»
The Mavericks live up to their name When you call yourselves The Mavericks, you have a reputation to live up to. The long-running country band may have addressed that issue from the get go with "Mono," their second disc since reforming in 2011. For non-audiophiles, music is almost exclusively recorded in stereo, considered a higher quality sound. ... »»»
Presley rises above (with) "American Middle Class" Some in the mainstream country audience may only know Angaleena Presley as one of the two other singers in Miranda Lambert's side group, Pistol Annies. But to view Presley in only that limited light would be selling her severely short. For starters, Pistol Annies is a trio of extra strong female country music writers and by no means merely Lambert's side group.... »»»
Jorma Kaukonen kicks back (sort of) and comes full circle with "Ain't In No Hurry" Jorma Kaukonen has reached that stage in life where any break he takes is well earned and completely deserved. The 74-year-old singer/songwriter is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee for his work with Jefferson Airplane and his solo career has kept him busy - and fans deliriously happy - for an astonishing 41 years when he's not sometimes playing with Hot Tuna.... »»»
6 String Drag ends two decade smoke break with "Roots Rock 'N' Roll" The last time Kenny Roby assembled 6 String Drag to record a new studio album, Bill Clinton had just handily secured his second term as president. That album was 1997's acclaimed "High Hat," and within months of its release, 6SD had dissolved, sadly capping a brief Americana/roots rock run that had seemed so promising after their brilliant 1994 self-titled debut...... »»»
Hensley, Ickes get together "Before the Sun Goes Down" There is no shortage of country and bluegrass artists who can say that they have been performing at high-profile Nashville venues like the Opry, Ryman and Station Inn for more than half their lives, but in the case of singer and guitar virtuoso Trey Hensley, he's still only 23.... »»»
Canaan Smith EP CD review - Canaan Smith EP
Virginia-native, Belmont educated, Canaan Smith was deemed as "One to Watch in 2012" after his debut single "We Got Us" charted that year. Still, it was nearly three years before his next single "Love You Like That" dropped this past summer. With more than 200,000 downloads, it went number 1 on Sirius XM, but fans have been forced to wait until now for an EP release. »»»
Nothing But the Silence CD review - Nothing But the Silence
The concept of female/male country duos is not new exactly, but it's a rare breed these days. There's Thompson Square, and there was the far too short-lived The Civil Wars. And now Striking Matches are out with their debut full-length, which skews far closer to Joy Williams and John Paul White than the Thompsons. »»»
Windfall CD review - Windfall
Joe Pug is one of those exceptionally astute artists who, despite their best efforts, find themselves inhabiting the marginal fringes of wider acclaim. It's frustrating, but still a fact that he's yet to achieve the wide recognition that's so clearly his due. With "Windfall," Pug imagines the larger goal implied by the album's title, thanks to a set of songs offering emotional resilience and a decidedly emphatic impression. »»»
Redemption Road CD review - Redemption Road
One of America's most iconic folk singers - and singer of songs, period - Tom Paxton can point with pride to a career that dates back to the folk boom of the late '50s and '60s. On his new album, "Redemption Road," Paxton pays tribute to that seminal era in a song entitled "The Mayor of Macdougal Street," in which he recalls the hallowed days of the Greenwich Village music scene... »»»
Turn It On CD review - Turn It On
With the release of "Turn It On," the Eli Young Band brings new music about girls, love, and...disco. Singer Mike Eli, who co-wrote all four songs, is in fine voice, solidifying the EYB sound. The title cut, written with co-founder James Young, with its strong beat and up-front vocals, is tailor-made for listening while driving fast. »»»
Still the King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys CD review - Still the King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys
Asleep at the Wheel have never shied away from acknowledging where their musical influence comes from. "Still the King" is the group's third tribute to the music of Bob Wills. While past attempts have been worthy acknowledgements of the influence of the Texas swing legend's music... »»»
Complicated Game CD review - Complicated Game
The first album by James McMurtry in six years proves that some simply get better with age. And it opens with a gorgeous, deliberate performance, "Copper Canteen," and a line about cleaning his gun before hunting season comes to a close. From there, McMurtry looks back at his youth and the changing world today "before the pension kicks in." »»»