Dulli, ‘Twilight’ feel right at home

DelcoTimes – Rock Music Menu: Dulli, ‘Twilight’ feel right at home
By MICHAEL CHRISTOPHER

“I’m looking forward to playing the TLA again; it’s been a long time,” the singer told Rock Music Menu. “It’s one of my favorite venues, it’s got a great sound, and the stage sound there is beyond compare.”

The Twilight Singers are touring in support of the brilliant new CD “Powder Burns,” quite possibly the most focused work Dulli has put out. His patented brand of emotional bloodletting has opened up even more due to the exorcism of some long lingering demons.

“When “demons” are tossed around, most people have more than 10; so if you’re killing one, you’ve still got nine to deal with,” Dulli theorized. “I think I’ll always have them, it gives you something to write about at the very least.”

While the specific evil manifestations remain unidentified, “Powder Burns” was the first record Dulli ever completed under only his own tortured influence. “I did this record clean,” he said. “It’s the only record that I’ve ever done clean — so my mindset was clean, clear, unobstructed and positive.”

But don’t think he has abandoned the party completely – far from it.

“Debauchery is relative. My debauchery is probably more intense than say, an accountant in Stockton – but maybe not. I’ll have a drink occasionally, I’ll have many occasionally, but I think the insanity of my younger days has been put to rest.”

Tracks like the blistering opener “I’m Ready” and the moody “Bonnie Brae,” have fans like actor/comedian Denis Leary praising the disc as Dulli’s finest work yet. Leary is doing the talk show circuit in support of next week’s “Rescue Me” season premiere, and has taken to bringing a copy of “Powder Burns” with him, even telling The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart, “It’s the best album I’ve heard in 10 years.”

The album features a rotating door of top-tier singers on back-up vocals, including Joseph Arthur and Ani DiFranco, leaving songs accented and nearly cast into another dimension with depth.

“As someone who’s a bit more challenged as a singer, it never hurts to have actual, pure singers as back up. I think that’s probably why I named the band what I did. I knew I was going to be using my favorite singers whenever I possibly could.”

The feeling generated by “Powder Burns” can also be attributed to the circumstances under which it was recorded; in New Orleans immediately after Hurricane Katrina struck. After helping a friend there who, like many, was in need of assistance, Dulli decided to stay and finish sessions for the CD. He also launched a sharp missive on his Website expressing his shock in the wake of the disaster, and pledging his devotion to continue to capture the essence of the area.

“I think I do have a loyalty to the city,” he said. “I started it there, and I think I had a defiant streak in me that was like, ‘[expletive] that hurricane’ and ‘[expletive] that Martial Law situation.’ It was a no brainer to do it in New Orleans. That city got dumped on and forgotten – but not by me.”

The allegiance to New Orleans is a mixed with bitterness, wistfulness and hope for Dulli, who sees a future for the city, but one that can’t possibly replicate the past.

“The renaissance is beginning now – but it will never be what it was. I think it will always remain a unique and haunted place in America, it certainly haunted even more now – but I think it makes it even more beautiful.”

Originally slated for release in spring of last year, the completion of the “Powder Burns” was first put on the backburner while Dulli toured with another group of equally dark musicians, Afterhours, an Italian band he also produced.

Playing some 50 shows with Afterhours, and out of the center spotlight, Dulli was able to lay back, improve his guitar playing, and be simply part of a group instead of the focus.

“I basically moved to Italy for three months, and was enjoying my time as “a dude in a band,” he said. “I think that it was probably the best for me to step away for a little bit and do something that I wanted to do, rather than something that I thought I had to do.”

Perhaps repaying the favor of liberation he was given by Afterhours, and has put them on as openers for the first round of touring.

“I think we’re thick as thieves lately,” Dulli said. “The record that I [produced for them] went gold over there, so I don’t think I need to flaunt my resume any harder than that.”

Live, the Twilight Singers tracks are typically interpreted heavier than on disc, and combined with the legendary litany of covers that tend to get play, peppering the set with everything from Barry White to Pink Floyd.

One band that understandably seems to be on it’s way out of the cover treatment is Dulli’s former soul-rock outfit The Afghan Whigs, which he broke up in 2001.

“It’s becoming longer and longer away, and now I’ve done as many records outside the Whigs as I did with them,” he said. “The only reason I would [play those songs] is if I really wanted to do it. I’m gonna do what feels natural. If I don’t do any, it’s just me being sincere. I don’t want to play things out of obligation; I want to play them out of joyous expression.”

Whigs songs or not, Dulli, never one for modesty, proclaims the show will be incendiary.

“We’re gonna kill it – and killing is my business.” And without a doubt, business is good.

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