Meat Purveyors – You want fries with that?
Things seem to move quickly around the Meat Purveyors. They had been together only six months or so when they struck up a friendship with Jon Langford of the Waco Brothers, which led to Bloodshot Records agreeing to put out their debut album. When that album, Sweet In The Pants, was released in January, they were chosen one of the “Ten To Watch” by their hometown paper in a poll designed to predict what local folks from all walks of life are due a breakout year.
“They’re just trying to show how hip they are,” the Meat Purveyors’ lead singer Jo Walston says with a sly grin. “The writer we spoke to said that being picked for that is the kiss of death for a band, though,” continues mandolin player Pete Stiles. “Apparently none of the bands they’ve ever picked have actually done anything. We’re due to break up next week.”
A great deal of the Meat Purveyors’ appeal is their wicked sense of humor. They combine a bluegrass sensibility with a willingness to go places most bands just won’t go. For instance, in their live shows, they often play a mini-set they refer to as the Madonna Trilogy that includes a string-band take on “Like A Virgin”, allowing the doe-eyed Walston to use every ounce of her coy sex appeal.
Likewise, on Sweet In The Pants, there’s a version of the Elvis Presley smash “Burning Love” that’s spun on its head and turned into a heart-rending, smoldering waltz — one that can go both ways, so to speak. “When I’m covering a song. I don’t change the gender,” Walston explains. “I want it to be the original words. I like it to be ambiguous.”
“Yeah, plenty of people think we’re lesbians,” chimes in standup bass player and background vocalist Cherilyn diMond, with a hearty laugh.
The rest of Sweet In The Pants traces a wide path, from guitarist Bill Anderson’s twisted, worldly songs of death, love and destruction, to interesting interpretations of songs from Merle Haggard, Ray Price and Bill Monroe, to a compelling reworking of “Dempsey Nash,” a long-lost nugget from ’80s Austin avant garde rockers Glass Eye.
“There is something of a tug-of-war going on,” Stiles says. “Jo wants us to cover more old country standards. If Bill had his way, we’d be doing four or five Human League covers” — an intriguing revelation, given Anderson’s previous stints in such bands as the hard-edged blues-rockin’ Hand of Glory and raw punkers Poison 13.
“I try to get us to do more from the bluegrass canon,” Stiles continued. “Cherilyn wants us to do covers of bands that most people don’t know yet, like the Waco Brothers and Old 97’s.”
“And our next project will be an acoustic version of Motley Crue’s ‘Shout At The Devil’,” jokes diMond — though we wouldn’t necessarily put it past ’em.