Dave Charles Shuford (aka D. Charles Speer) grew up in Georgia, absorbing the culture and history of the American South before moving to New York in the early 90s. He quickly fell in with the experimental rock underground that has long been an undercurrent of that city’s defining spirit, most notably as a member of the long-running No Neck Blues Band. The loose and free country rock boogie of Speer’s work with the Helix derives power from the tension between these two aspects of his personality, the traditional and the exploratory. With Speer joined once again by Hans Chew (keys), Marc Orleans (pedal steel), Ted Robinson (bass), and Steve McGuirl (drums), Doubled Exposure, is their most stylistically varied yet consistent work to date, offering a full mélange of what Speer and his band have to offer.
Doubled Exposure touches on many aspects of Speer’s musical menagerie, enhancing his ramblin’ tunes with the blistering psych he has explored with Rhyton to the traditional Greek melodies he delved into on Arghiledes. In the propulsive “Cretan Lords,” Speer enhances a sweeping modal blues with the bouzouki and baglamas, lending a distinctively Mediterranean flavor to rich, tremoloed stew. The ten-minute epic “Mandorla at Dawn,” achieves an incredibly dense psychedelic swirl using a stereo amp rig and live looping, a first for Speer’s studio work. The album culminates with the exuberant “Tough Soup,” with chants echoing along to the rough and tumble boogie.
Speer augments the expert, eclectic musicianship of his band with a remarkable lyrical prowess, which he delivers in his trademark deadpan drawl. His rich imagistic tales take three forms throughout the album: heart songs, which are based on personal experience and emotion; visionary songs, which incorporate surrealist language and beat poetics; and research songs, which see Shuford reimagining and incorporating historical events.
Doubled Exposure was immaculately recorded by Jason Meagher at the increasingly legendary Black Dirt Studios in upstate New York. D. Charles Speer and the Helix will tour throughout 2014.