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With friends, Dulli makes the most of Twilight time

With friends, Dulli makes the most of Twilight time – The Boston Globe
With friends, Dulli makes the most of Twilight time

By Sarah Rodman, Globe Staff | May 26, 2006

Fans of Greg Dulli’s post-Afghan Whigs project the Twilight Singers are in for a pleasantly fiery surprise on the band’s new album “Powder Burns.”

The Ohio native largely abandoned the mammoth guitar racket of his previous band on the first three Twilight records so he might engage his love of classic R&B and dip into electronic and ambient sounds.

With “Powder Burns,” the singer-songwriter combines all of his gifts into a kind of punk-R&B noir that is equal parts angst and soul. He chronicles the exploits of folks with vampiric body clocks who find themselves in dire situations and dark corners.

Of course, cynicism, rage, seedy underbellies, and baleful howls into a bleak night are not new for Dulli. He has explored similar terrain with both the Twilight Singers, who come to the Paradise on Monday, and the Whigs, a cult favorite in the ’90s thanks to albums such as “Gentlemen ” and “Black Love .”

The rebuilding of his textured wall of sound, however, can be credited to a number of factors, he says.

“I think it’s probably because I have been playing live a lot for the past couple of years ; I think that [energy] rubbed off on `Powder Burns,’ ” he says, on the phone from a Columbus, Ohio, tour stop.

His approach to recording also helped revive his heavy guitar jones. “Definitely the first two Twilight records were done kind of in a solitary situation, me and an engineer to a click track. So this is the first time in a few years that I’ve actually played in the room with the rhythm section on the same day.”

Having an audience in that studio also helped spur him to voice-destroying heights on barnburners such as “There’s Been an Accident ” and “My Time (Has Come) ,” which he says have “something spooky going on. I’m not sure exactly what it is and I hope I never find out.

“I think adrenaline and the moment dictate a lot of what happens vocally,” says Dulli, 41, of his ardent style that conjures images of Wilson Pickett’s shout pounded with a meat tenderizer. “But I’ve noticed if there are four or five of my friends around when I’m doing a vocal I try harder. It’s like you have an audience and you want to bring it.”

Those friends — including singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur , former Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan , and erstwhile Whigs bandmate John Curley — made contributions of their own . Dulli was especially “intimidated in a good way” by one friend, Ani DiFranco.

“Every now and then you need a chick singer and it’s good to have one on hand,” DiFranco says with a laugh, of her contributions to three tracks including the quietly sinister “Candy Cane Crawl.” Dulli, who met DiFranco through her boyfriend, “Powder Burns” co-producer Mike Napolitano, calls the righteous folk-rock babe a “little genius.”

“There’s way too much polish these days, everything is all packaged up right neat and I am, like most of us these days I think, aching for inspiration,” she says. “Over the course of watching them make the record and watching Greg sing and do his thing I realized I find him very inspirational. I just enjoy the record for his rawness and the force of his spirit that comes through it.”

The pair also share a mutual love of their adopted hometown , New Orleans. The recent destruction in the Crescent City factored into the brooding sound of the new album, which was recorded mostly post-Katrina.

Dulli is hopeful about New Orleans’ prospects and is planning to film a show with all of his guests , including DiFranco , there next month.

“I got there Oct. 1, like 30 days after it happened. I was on the first commercial plane that they let back into the city,” Dulli says. Mercifully, his home was not destroyed, but he says “you can’t see that kind of devastation and not be affected by it.”

DiFranco agrees. “I’m sure it had an effect on our psyches . . . and still does,” she says. “I think it’s really cool that Greg chose to go down there and be a part of the rebirth of the city.”

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