Damnations – Daughters of the Americana Revolution
Guided by sisters Amy and Deborah Boone, the Damnations uncover bits and pieces of Americana, tucked away and seldomly visited. They evoke the spirit of country music’s past, then add influences ranging from Stax recordings to Tom Waits, giving the band an identity that resembles an old friend revealing a new array of secret hideaways.
Drummer Keith Langford says the Damnations play “down home music,” the kind that works anywhere — front porch, back porch, living room, church, picnic, smoky rock club. As one of the Zane brothers of the late, great Del Fuegos once said, when queried about the type of music his band played, “It’s folk music, you know, music for folks.” That fits the Damnations as well.
Formed in 1994, the Damnations released their debut CD, Live Set, in the summer of 1997. Recorded on Austin radio station KUT’s weekly live-in-the-studio broadcast of the same name, the release came about in response to fans’ requests. The band pressed up 1,000 CDs of the radio show to sell at gigs and at local record stores. “It doesn’t reflect where we’re at now,” Deborah says, explaining that lap and pedal steel player Gary Newcomb is no longer with them (though guitarist and banjo player Rob Bernard has taken up a considerable amount of that slack, as well as filling other holes).
Regardless of the lineup changes since it was recorded, Live Set captures the energy of the Damnations’ performances and represents the strength and cohesiveness of the band’s repertoire. The disc features seven original songs balanced with seven well-chosen covers, ranging from tradition tunes to two Carter Family numbers to a rousing, gutsy rendition of Lucinda Williams’ “Happy Woman Blues”.
The originals highlight the Damnations’ close-knit sisterly harmonies, solid acoustic-based musicianship, and lyrics that draw on everything from current reading selections to personal experiences to history studies to the geography of their travels. Occasionally they reveal a knack for knockout pop smarts as well, as on the immediately infectious “Unholy Train.”
Plans have been made to record a new CD featuring some songs from the Live Set disc and several new tunes as well. There is also talk of a small tour featuring the Damnations and a couple other up-and-coming Austin bands, a musical caravan of sorts with a rotating lineup each evening.
In discussing musical genres of the moment, the Damnations say simply that they are playing this music because it’s what they enjoy. One gets the refreshing and gratifying sense that, whatever today’s or tomorrow’s trends might be, the Damnations would still be doing just what they’re doing now, playing from the heart and singing for the soul.