The Dodge Brothers Don’t Write New Songs, They Write Old Songs
Every now and again Aly Hirji reminded me of George Michael. No it’s true, stop laughing. Hirji plays rhythm guitar and gorgeous mandolin with country blues-rockabilly-skiffle-jugband, The Dodge Brothers, and to be honest I really don’t think he needs anybody to wake him up before they go go. I’m just saying.
They were playing Belfast’s Black Box for the second sold out gig that day, as part of the Out To Lunch festival, and were still buzzing from the afternoon show by the looks of it. Probably the best known in the band is Mark Kermode (BBC Culture Show) who was slapping hell out of his double bass, as well as driving melodies and occasional great locomotive noises from his harmonica.
Their motto is “We don’t write new songs, we write old songs,” but they’re also expertly resourced to cover those old classics, and those old songs that should be classics but never got the chance. Last night they started with a Tarheel Slim cover “Number 9 Train.” It was the first song they ever learned, and considering they started in 1996 they’ve had the space to hone the harmonies and the timing in the song. It looked like Kermode would shadow lead vocalist Mike Hammond’s words through the verses and Hirji would join in the chorus. I’m not sure if percussionist Alex Hammond was singing at all because anytime I was watching him it was his drumstick on the washboard that held my attention.
“This is my favourite place to play in the whole world” Mike Hammond told us before introducing a song that Kermode had written in 1932 apparently. We were pleased with that, we did a wee cheer. Later on though, when we were told about their album The Sun Set, and how it was recorded in Sun Studio, Memphis, we didn’t respond with an appropriate level of vigour and were brought through the information again, giving us the opportunity to express how impressed we are. (We did another wee cheer or two).
With the noise from the bar I missed a good bit of what was said on stage to be honest. If the show had been standing I just would have found another spot, no big deal, but it was seated and it’s trickier finding another spot without hassling people. Also, if truth be told, I was comfy. Yeah, I was comfy as hell.
Anyway, there were a couple of great call and response numbers, but I couldn’t quite catch the instructions. Doesn’t matter really. I’m pretty sure the line wasn’t “shit ain’t liquor” but I was shouting that out anyway and it seemed to fit OK before “Colt 45”. As for the other one, “Blueberry, Pokemon cherry, elderberry”. Wha? The craic was 90 with these and for a seated Belfast audience (we can be a bit shy) the spirit from the stage roped us right in and we really weren’t too bad at all.
The last song was dedicated to Terri Hooley who was mooching about in the crowd somewhere. “Terri,” Mark Kermode called out from the stage, “I’m so glad you came, and even more pleased you stayed.” Nice one. Then they ended on a blinding version of “Slow Down.” I think that’s Brian Setzer. Is it? Corrections welcome. Meantime thank you Dodge Brothers, don’t leave it for another six years before you come back eh?
First posted on CultureHub Magazine