All Them Witches

All Them Witches


Heady psychedelia & Southern sweet-sour blues? I can’t think of a better match. Apart from gin & tonic, I mean.

We are getting far from 9.30pm at a cramped Gulliver’s Victorian ballroom, when a silent guy with a plain ‘Maine’ cup enters the stage and starts checking the keys. He disappears for a while. Then a Texan-styled skinny guy wanders the stage and tunes a beautiful vintage bass. Another guy calmly deals with his guitar. They could be roadies or sound technicians judging by their careless appearance. But as soon as they’re joined by the drummer, the not-Texan-but-Tennessee guy says hello and thank you for coming and they all, All Them Witches, start playing. The ‘witches’ in question are Charles Michael Parks Jr. (vocals/bass); Ben McLeod (guitar); Robby Staebler (drums) and Allan Van Cleave (keys).

It’s Monday night and what a better way to indulge our damned souls than with some blues for starters. Later I’ll check the set list and get no more clues than “Blues”, penciled at the top of the list of a grimy piece of paper.

The moody blues suddenly stops, the drummer seems to have some problems with his mic. Their easy-going performance makes me doubt whether they’ve already started the gig or they’re still doing their peculiar sound check. Play As You Go. Lead singer Parks kindly entertains the crowd, meanwhile.

Though, by the time he plays the first thunderous chords of ‘The Death Of Coyote Woman’, there’s no room for nice banter anymore. A grainy song whose eerie bass and killer guitar riffs immediately teleport you to a dark desert. This trip ends with a wicked bass scratching. ‘Dirt Preachers’ from their latest album Dying Surfer Meets His Maker, sounds as you may expect: dirty. Noise in harmony.

Back to their second album Lightning At The Door (2014), ‘Funeral For A Great Drunken Bird’ and its powerful intro blow every sinful mind. At this point you may also notice how they bend to their instrument’s nature: guitar, bass and drums are pure blood and guts, whilst Maine’s keyboard player remains thoughtfully playing, pleasantly focused. The parishioners sing along to ‘When God Comes Back’. “Everything I see is just a part of it / Every word I breathe is just a part of it / I saw her drink from that cup of light / So I know she still exists”. Sublime poetry out of Nashville.

Parks gets rid of their glasses, soon after he’ll struggle to read his setlist. “Put your glasses on!”, shouts a (just a bit drunk) man from the crowd. Parks stays speechless, as a twisted Buddy Holly, restrained fury beneath his skin.

So the bluesy psych band moves to deeper, muddier waters with the new song ‘Call Me Star’. Psychedelta rock at its best. Take ‘Talisman’, what a beautiful, twisted lullaby. “Shed some light / And move your magic / Take some time / And show me how, / Talisman”. The room is getting stuffy. Only the guitarist remains with his shirt on. Again, the smartarse from the crowd shouts: “Get dressed!” A wise woman aptly reacts: “DON’T get dressed!”

Following tracks such as ‘Bloodhounds’, ‘Mountain’ (so shamanic!) or ‘Charles William’ set a good example of how the blues provides the classy touch to a progressive psychedelia, whose driving virtuosity could turn into a fatal trip (where the stones snore).

Balance is the virtue.

‘Heavy Like A Witch’, from their first album Our Mother Electricity (2012), puts the heaviest spell on us, the thirsty incautious. We also drink blindly the ‘Elk Blood Heart’ before this talented band discreetly disappears, ‘Swallowed By The Sea’ of dirty blues and delta psych. All of us bewitched.

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Amaia Santana

Good karma brought me here to Manchester, my second home, where you can stay healthy (despite the weather) and young forever, as you can breathe live music in every corner of the city. I do believe in the healing power of music (rock is my life vest) and I'd be so glad to share my passion with you rockers of the world!