Needle Drop: The Claudettes, High Times
in the Dark

My intro to Chicago’s The Claudettes came back in 2018 via Dance Scandal at the Gymnasium!, a set that not only confirmed the accuracy of the descriptions of a blues-punk merger, but greatly exceeded the dual expectations I’d formulated for the record.

On one hand, I was bracing for either the growly revamping or de(con)struction of mid-20th century electric blues nugs (particularly as The Claudettes’ then and current four-piece lineup began as a duo). On the other hand, once I’d learnt of founder-constant member-pianist Johnny Iguana’s prior work in the bands of Junior Wells and Otis Rush, I was thinking the content might swing over to the opposite side of the spectrum. That is, the highly (one might even say overly) reverential. What those predictions didn’t account for was vocalist Berit Ulseth as she brings appealing soul music verve to the proceedings. Plus, Iguana was striving for a sound that is unmistakably contemporary.

Gymnasium saw the band working with Grammy-winning producer Mark Neill, and for this follow-up they tap into the expertise of another Grammy winner in Ted Hutt, whose credits include Gaslight Anthem, Violent Femmes, and The Devil Makes Three. The results extend the full-bodied sound of their prior effort, with drummer Michael Caskey and bassist Zach Verdoorn (who also plays guitar and sings) a capable rhythm section. Along the way, the band pulls off the difficult feat of being clearly roots cognizant while never sounding like a dusted-off relic (the tag of indie blues is an apt one).

Iguana’s piano is a constant and welcome element as his playing is a natural part of a sound that smartly puts Ulseth’s skills up front. As this set unwinds there’s considerable pop savvy on display, and in spots the LP is kinda like a 21 century version of what Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd, and the Dixie Flyers were doing with assorted singers circa the early 1970s. High Times in the Dark is not a bit hackneyed, which is an absence worth celebrating.

This entry was posted in The TVD Storefront. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text
  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text