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: Carlile warms hearts with empathetic thoughts – Brandi Carlile, dressed festively with a Santa hat, began her mid-week concert set with Joni Mitchell's "River" and closed with the carol "O Holy Night." In between, she sang about an equal measure of old and new songs. And on this first night of a short acoustic tour, Carlile was both in fine spirits and voice.... »»»
Concert Review: Daniels wears out bows, but music endures – After each of the first few songs Charlie Daniels played, his 'fiddle tech (?)' exchanged his bow. Is this because he was playing particularly hard? Perhaps. Whatever the case, Daniels and his five-piece band clearly appeared to be giving it their all during the act's hour-and-a-half set. As it is the Christmas month, Daniels sang a... »»»
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

Washburn, Fleck create "Echoes" Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn have powerhouse individual talents; each has followed an estimable career path to where they find themselves today: making complex, but spare, records, writing music together and touring with their son Juno. Their new release, "Echoes In The Valley" features mostly songs written by Fleck and Washburn, banjos, Washburn's strong vocals and very little else.... »»»
Hillman bides his time Legends don't come any more legendary than Chris Hillman. The roll call of bands that comprises Hillman's half century in music reads like a wing exhibit at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers, Manassas, the Souther Hillman Furay Band, the Desert Rose Band,... »»»
The Cadillac Three creates its "Legacy" William Shakespeare noted a few centuries back that a rose by any other name would be equally aromatic, and that general idea has musical implications as well. The Cadillac Three knows a thing or two about maintaining a sonic identity after a name change;... »»»
With Stanley and Watson, sound isn't elementary Those aware of the late Owsley "Bear" Stanley likely know him for one of two reasons - his pioneering work manufacturing lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) in San Francisco during the mid-to-late 1960s and his role as an innovative sound engineer. Most notably, Bear worked...... »»»
May shifts gears, directions Headed into 2015, Imelda May was on a hit streak. Her rockabilly career was in full swing, nurtured by the likes of former Squeeze keyboardist Jools Holland and guitar icon Jeff Beck. Her albums routinely topped the charts in her native Ireland.... »»»
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...... »»»
Boom CD review - Boom
Walker Hayes has a lot of Sam Hunt in his music, in that he mixes a lot of hip-hop in with his country. Traditionalists will have trouble with his unorthodox approach. Kids, though, raised on just as much Drake as Paisley, will likely eat it up. »»»
From A Room: Volume 2 CD review - From A Room: Volume 2
There is no bigger artist in country music today, perhaps even in American music, than Chris Stapleton. His appeal reaches beyond just the commercial country fans for his gritty bluesy approach. 2015's "Traveller" set a high bar, which was met by this year's release of "From A Room: Volume 1," which won Album of the Year in the 51st CMA Awards.  »»»
Down Home Sessions EP CD review - Down Home Sessions EP

Upon first glance at the track list of Cole Swindell's fourth installment of the "Down Home Sessions" series, one may get the impression that it is a covers EP. It features several chart toppers from other artists, including Luke Bryan's "Roller Coaster" and Thomas Rhett's "Get Me Some Of That." »»»

The Rest of Our Lives CD review - The Rest of Our Lives
The first full album from Tim McGraw and Faith Hill is an inspired effort, even though some of its songwriters may surprise you. The title cut, for instance, features pop ginger Ed Sheeran on its credits, while Meghan Trainor contributed to "Roll the Dice." »»»
Bloodshot Records' 13 Days of Xmas CD review - Bloodshot Records' 13 Days of Xmas
Label holiday albums can sometimes be like office white elephant gift exchanges because there's a little bit of everything on the table. Some stuff you like, while other things may have been better left unwrapped. »»»
Texoma Shore CD review - Texoma Shore
Blake Shelton's 11th studio album finds The Voice advisor in a contented, one might even say homey, frame of mind. The opening track and first single "I'll Name the Dogs" sets the tone. It's a rollicking ode to domesticity that manages to make household chore distribution ("You find the spot and I'll find the money / You be the pretty and I'll be the funny") both romantic and amusing.  »»»
A Storyteller's Memory CD review - A Storyteller's Memory

Remington Ryde made a promise to James King to keep his music alive, and with the release of "A Storyteller's Memory," the group kept its word. The band's first recording with Pinecastle Records is a tribute to the late King that includes some of his most memorable stories and songs. »»»

Live in No Shoes Nation: 10 Years of Concerts CD review - Live in No Shoes Nation: 10 Years of Concerts
Kenny Chesney's "Live in No Shoes Nation" accurately recreates an experience of seeing the diminutive party animal live. Chesney has found an extremely lucrative niche as country music's Jimmy Buffett (although much of Buffett's island-y pop music appeals to many of today's non-discerning country music listeners). »»»
Fifteen CD review - Fifteen
There's nothing lovelier in this world than the sound of human voices huddled in harmony. That's immediately apparent when listening to the close knit collaboration that's rooted in the Wailin' Jennys, a well-versed folk trio whose three members - Nicky Mehta, Ruth Moody and Heather Masse - have celebrated a special kinship for the better part of the past 15 years.  »»»