A husband and wife duo from Austria, now based in Joshua Tree, Georg and Heike Altziebler enlisted Joe Henry to produce Dorado, their sixth album under the bizarre moniker of Son of the Velvet Rat.
There’s nothing bizarre about Son of The Velvet Rat’s music, however. Dorado is a ten track collection of haunted desert noir built around Georg’s dust-grained vocals and his wife’s accordion and organ backing. They are complemented by a core band of Jay Bellerose on drums, Adam Levy’s electric guitar, bassist David Piltch and Patrick Warren providing piano, autoharp and marxophone (a fretless zither) plus some guest musicians.
The lonesome sounds of Carry On provide entry to the album, setting the pervasive mood, Bob Furgo adding violin to colour the mood, followed by the throaty Dylan-tinged Copper Hill featuring Scott Kisinger on trombone and Kelly Corbin on sax and clarinet. On the dark shuffle of Blood Red Shoes, Victoria Williams adds additional vocals while Gar Robertson provides guitar on the largely spoken organ-backed delivery of Love’s The Devil’s Foe as well as contributing pedal steel to Tiger Honey’s acoustic bass enhanced smoky slow chug.
Although pacing and tone don’t vary significantly across the album, two numbers do provide variation. Surfer Joe adopts a more uptempo marching beat underpinning a circling melody line while Starlite Motel introduces harmonica and a moodier twang to weave a folk-noir ambience around steady marching drums.
Feted by Lucinda Williams, whose gravelly Americana and themes of love and loss they echo, they’ve been likened to Cohen and Nick Drake, though perhaps a less glowering Nick Cave filtered through the Willard Grant Conspiracy might be nearer the mark. Haunting and soulful, it may not be for wide consumption, but if you like your music steeped in the parched sand, dry rocks, forbidding cacti and mournful night winds, then this is your brand of vermin.
Dorado is out now on Fluff & Gravy Records
The band will be touring Europe between March and August 2017. Check their website for details: sonofthevelvetrat.com
Photo Credit: Dieter Sajovic